Love lost

FTC says 'romance scams' bilked victims out of $547 million last year

close up shot of bitcoin gold shot in Las Vegas, Nv. USA


What 'romance scammers' made in 2021 alone according to the FTC.

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I’ve never thought of the Federal Trade Commission as a place for dating advice, but the first sentence of a recent communication piece reads: “Online dating can be a great way to find lasting love — or even your next fling.”

Thankfully for all of us, the FTC isn’t writing a romance advice column. Instead, it’s releasing a warning about catfishing, which is apparently skyrocketing. According to the FTC, people have reported losing $1.3 billion to romance scams in the past five years. In 2021 alone, scammers ran off with $547 million with a median loss of $2,400.

It’s not just the Tinder Swindler The FTC says that some scammers will woo victims with sweet talk and flirtatious messages on dating apps, but others will find their victims on social media platforms that aren’t specifically oriented toward dating.

“You don’t have to be looking for love to be courted by a romance scammer,” says the FTC. “More than a third of people who said they lost money to an online romance scam in 2021 said it began on Facebook or Instagram.”

Whether preying on people with big hearts and easily-won trust or spinning stories about healthcare bills or high travel costs to convince victims to send money to help, scammers take advantage of the online disinhibition effect, the tendency of people to share information online that they might otherwise keep private.

Money Mules— Some scammers trick victims into laundering stolen funds. Scammers might claim to “need help getting their inheritance money or moving funds for an important business deal,” and convincing people to act as “money mules” moving funds.

Not all swindlers get funds by flirting. A growing trend is the faux-financial expert — someone who presents promising “investment opportunities” that “often involve foreign exchange trading or cryptocurrency. But instead of making money, victims lose the money they “invest.”

The FTC says that the biggest reported losses were paid in cryptocurrency ($139 million last year alone) which is five times higher than what was reported in 2020. The median cryptocurrency loss was a whopping $9,770 — far higher than the median loss for non-crypto romance scams.

It’s brutal out there, so stay vigilant and make sure you warn the people in your life who might be more likely to fall victim to a romance scam, such as those with little internet experience, the elderly, or non-English speakers.