USA Today has reported that in 2018 people reported losing $143 million to romance-related scams – a higher dollar amount than any other type of scam reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The average median loss is a whopping $2,600. Those ages 70 and older reported a median loss of $10,000. Some individuals even reported losing $100,000 or more.
Victims aren't just losing their life savings. Some are taking on new debt in the name of love – taking out home equity loans, opening up new credit cards and even getting payday loans to solve somebody else's crisis, medical emergency or business trouble.
According to the FTC, romance scams soared in 2018, with the number of reported hoaxes rising to nearly 21,400 from about 16,900 in 2017. The spread of such cons is dramatically increasing. In 2015, there were about 8,500 romance scams that amounted to $33 million in losses. Today, over 21,000 romance scams amount to $143 million in losses.
The FTC reports that romance scammers often find their victims online through a dating site, app or social media. They typically create phony profiles using a stranger’s photo they found online, making up a name or assuming the identity of a real person. Once these fraudsters have people by the heartstrings, they say they need money, typically for a medical emergency or some other misfortune. They often say they’re in the military and based abroad – that’s why they can’t meet in person. A common ruse is that they need help with travel costs for a long-anticipated visit.
Americans age 40 to 69 reported losing money to romance scams at more than twice the rate of people in their 20's. However, those 70 and over suffered the highest median loss.
Looking for romance online? Be cautious, be alert, and be smart!
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