Online romance scams are growing at a dizzying pace, raking in millions of dollars from unsuspecting victims across the United States.
Some of the scams drag on for months or years, and leave the victims crushed emotionally and financially. Just this week, federal officials announced that Americans lost $201 million to online romance scams last year – nearly a 40% jump since 2018.
The Federal Trade Commission has warned that scams that prey on vulnerable people cost Americans more money than any other fraud reported to the agency last year. More than 21,000 people were conned into sending $143 million in such schemes in 2018 alone, it reported.
And that number has skyrocketed in recent years, with losses that are almost quadruple 2015 figures.
“Reports indicate the scammers are active on dating apps, but also on social media sites that aren’t generally used for dating. For example, many people say the scam started with a Facebook message,” the FTC says.
It warns people to be wary of any online relationship in which the person wants to leave the dating site immediately and use personal messaging, the person is fast to claim love or the person asks for money without meeting face-to-face.
- The person wants to leave the dating site immediately and use personal email or messaging
- The person is fast to claim love
- They say they’re traveling or working internationally
- He or she says they want to visit but don’t have the money because, for example, a business deal went sour
- They ask for money without meeting face-to-face
CNN’s Michelle Lou contributed to this report