Looking for love online? You may want to use some extra caution.
A new notice released Tuesday by the Federal Trade Commission highlights a surge in ‘romance scams,’ or scenarios where scammers trick love-lusting internet users into sending them money, only to later disappear.
The scams cost victims an astonishing $143 million in 2018, up from $33 million the previous year and making it the most costly type of consumer fraud reported to the FTC.
These romance scams typically involve a user creating a phony profile and approaching someone via a dating app or website.
The phony profiles tend to use a fake photo to deceive the other user into thinking they’re someone they’re not.
Over time, cybercriminals gain the victim’s trust and love with the goal of getting them to send money via gift cards, wire transfer and other ways, the FTC noted.
Romance scams have continued to rise as more and more users reported them to the FTC in recent years.
And the elderly appear to have gotten hit the most financially: The FTC said users over 70 reported an average loss of $10,000.
The median reported loss overall was $2,600, the agency noted.
However, users between the ages of 40 and 69 are most at risk of getting targeted with romance scams, according to the FTC.
HOW CAN YOU AVOID ‘ROMANCE SCAMS’?
Romance scams, where criminals create phony profiles to trick love-lusting victims into sending them money, are on the rise.
To avoid falling prey, here’s what you can do:
- Slow down and talk to someone you trust. Don’t let a scammer rush you.
- Never wire money, put money on a gift or cash reload card, or send cash to an online love interest. You won’t get it back.
- Contact your bank right away if you think you’ve sent money to a scammer.
- Report your experience to the online dating site, FTC or the Federal Bureau of Investigation.