What the Tech? How to Avoid Online Romance Scams

2020 was not a good year for dating. Once the coronavirus pandemic began and people stayed in their homes 24/7, they began looking for love or companionship online. That made for a perfect storm for scammers using romance as a weapon.

There’s no shortage of dating or romance websites, there are hundreds of dating or hook-up apps in the Apple App Store alone. According to the FTC cyber-criminals with Achy-Faky Hearts are using dating websites and apps to scam people looking for love.

In 2020, romance scams hit an all-time record with over $304 million dollars being scammed out of victims. That’s $102 million more than in 2019.

Some scams start on apps and websites, but fake cupid’s also used social media. They send friend requests to unsuspecting but vulnerable victims and use the platforms to begin conversations that can easily turn into online relationships. Scammers can find victims by friending others and then send requests to all of their friends.

Once they make contact with their victim they might begin with flirty messages before moving on to more personal conversations. The romance scammer will profess deep feelings and might ask to move the conversation to WeChat or another messaging app. Some victims even report they received flowers or gifts in the mail from the scammer or who they’re pretending to be along with promises to meet in person.

At some point, the scammer asks for money sent in gift card numbers or wire transfers. Many of the romance scams involve money being requested for travel or hardship such as medical problems.

These scams work. In 2020 there were over 30,000 incidents reported to the FBI and FTC, and the actual number of incidents is much higher as victims are too embarrassed to tell anyone.

One police officer told me, scams like this are sometimes carried out by inmates using smartphones smuggled into jail or prison. If you or someone you know have fallen for one of these romance scams, end the conversation and contact the police.

Read more about romance scams on the FTC website

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