An 80-year-old widower lost $200,000 in an online romance scam in Oregon

Reports of romance scams more than doubled and reported losses increased more than fourfold from 2015 to 2018.

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.

Here's how to avoid getting your heart and money stolen:

They claim to be in these professions

Romance scammers start off with fake profiles using someone else's identity. Their alleged location is never in your city -- they claim to be deployed in the military, working at an oil rig overseas or a doctor embedded with international groups, the Federal Trade Commission says. That way, they can ask for money to pay for seemingly legitimate costs such as travel visas, plane tickets and hospital bills.

They insist on anonymous money transfers

When asking for money, romance scammers rarely use regular money transfer process such as a checking account. They opt for gift cards so they can turn them into cash. "Gift cards are for gifts, not payments. Anyone who demands payment by gift card is always a scammer," the Federal Trade Commission said.

After they get the gift card number and its PIN, they can immediately retrieve the money loaded on it and the process is difficult to reverse. "Once they've done that, the scammers and your money are gone, usually without a trace," the FTC says. "Here's the thing: Never send money or gifts to a love interest you haven't actually met. It's a romance scam."

They move fast on the relationship

Romance scammers don't always start on dating apps. Others start on social media, with Facebook messenger especially popular, 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.

All the tips discussed here came from the Federal Trade Commission's website, which monitors reports of fraud in the US. For more on romance scams and how to report them, click here.

Stay Informed

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Thank you for Reading!

Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to read or post comments.