ATLANTA (CBS46) – Thursday is Valentine’s Day and that means most of us will be looking for love that day. But, the Federal Trade Commission said scammers are using “romance” to find victims and bilk them out of an estimated $143 million in 2018.
The FTC said romance scammers will look to reel people in with phony dating profiles where they use stolen picture, made up names, or sometimes even actual identity theft of someone else’s profile. But the FTC said social media sites not used for dating are rapidly becoming the number one target for scammers.
According to the FTC, many of the scams will start with a Facebook message. Then, the fraudsters will at some point ask for money for things like a medical emergency or other unfortunate event. Many times, the scammers will say they are in the military and stationed overseas and need the money for travel cost to come visit and other fraudulent claims.
The government said the median individual financial loss to romance scams was approximately $2,600. But, people between the ages of 40-69 reported losing money to romance scammers at twice the rate of people in their 20’s and people 70 and older lost the most money on average at about $10,000.
The FTC gave out a few tips to protect yourself from romance scammers including:
- Never send money or gifts to a sweetheart you haven’t met in person.
- Talk to someone you trust about this new love interest. In the excitement about what feels like a new relationship, we can be blinded to things that don’t add up. Pay attention if your friends or family are concerned.
- Take it slowly. Ask questions and look for inconsistent answers. Try a reverse-image search of the profile pictures. If they’re associated with another name or with details that don’t match up, it’s a scam.
- Learn more about scammers at ftc.gov/imposters.