Dating scams in 2020 cost $ 300 million, targeting older Americans: FTC

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  • Romantic scams can start on dating apps and social media. But the scammer often shifts them to other communication options and asks for money.
  • Romance scams have escalated during the COVID-19 pandemic, with frauds across all age groups totaling $ 304 million, up about 50% from 2019, according to the FTC.
  • For those aged 60 to 79, romance scams were the highest reported losses. The median loss for those 70 and over: $ 9,475.80.

Do you know the price of love? OK, the cost of true love may be immeasurable, but the cost of romance scams totaled at least $ 304 million in 2020.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, says the Federal Trade Commission, because many victims of dating scams are embarrassed to come forward.

A woman who did, Kate Kleinert, a widow from Pennsylvania, told the Special Senate Committee on Aging last month how she got involved in a romance scam that cost her around $ 39,000 – and his pride.

After receiving a friend request on Facebook in August 2020 from a man, Kleinert began to correspond with him on another app. “Tony” said he was working in Iraq on a contract with the United Nations and after asking she sent gift cards to him and his children.

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He had planned to meet her in Philadelphia in December but did not show up. Then someone claiming to be Tony’s lawyer called to say he needed $ 20,000 for Tony’s bail. “The lawyer told me to do whatever I could – put a mortgage on my house, borrow it from a family member,” she said. “I couldn’t do it.”

Ultimately, “I was living off my credit cards and he was getting what I was taking from social security and my pension,” she said.

Kleinert, who eventually learned that the photos Tony sent were of a doctor in Spain, said she had expressed frustration at the inability to get justice and “it’s so devastating and a lot of people went through it but didn’t talk about it “.

Romance scams continue to rise, and over the past three years people have reported losing more money than any other fraud reported to the Federal Trade Commission. These scams, typically performed on dating apps and social media, have increased across all age groups with losses of $ 304 million, up about 50% from 2019, according to the FTC.

Age is just a number for romantic con artists, who swindled the elderly (60 and over) over $ 139 million in 2020. That’s 65% more than in 2019, when the reported losses were nearly $ 84 million, according to “Protecting Older Consumers, 2020-2021, A Report of the Federal Trade Commission,” released earlier this week.

Of all the scams tracked by the FTC, romance scams were the highest reported losses for people aged 60 to 79. And people aged 70 and over reported the highest median losses from dating scams: $ 9,475.80.

The opportunities for romantic con artists have increased during the pandemic, with older people spending more time on social media. “It doesn’t always mean they’re looking for love, it’s just signaling that the scammer starts with an unexpected friend request or a message,” said Patti Poss, senior counsel in the office of the consumer protection from the FTC.

“The crooks are very sophisticated. And no one should be embarrassed that this has happened,” she said. “They know what they’re doing, so they can tell these stories, develop a relationship, and get money from people. You might not think that you are sending something to a stranger because it’s someone you want. you think you know then. “

Romantic crooks: how to spot them

Know where the crooks are hiding. Scammers in love usually create fake profiles on dating sites and apps like Ashley Madison, Grindr, Match, and Tinder. They also target users on Instagram and Facebook, according to the FTC. AARP even reported on a case where a 75-year-old woman was swindled around $ 137,000 by a romantic con artist she met on Words With Friends.

The crooks live where and do what? Some signs that your online lover isn’t all they propose to be include a claim that they reside outside the United States or work on an oil rig, with the military, or are a doctor from an international organization.

They want to get personal – up to a point. A scammer will want to connect with you outside of the dating site, perhaps via email, phone, or text. But they don’t necessarily want to meet in person.

The crooks end up asking for money. After building trust with their potential victims – they can do this online several times a day, according to the FTC – they can apply for money to help with emergencies like travel, medical care. or other expenses. In payment, they can request that the money be sent by bank transfer through Western Union or MoneyGram. Bank transfers and payments made up nearly a third of the reported romance scam losses among seniors at $ 31 million, and romance con artists are said to have taken an additional $ 12 million in cryptocurrency.

Credit card or gift card scams.

Many dating fraud victims have said the crooks are using the coronavirus pandemic to explain requests for money or their inability to meet in person, according to the FTC. Seniors have reported losses of $ 10.5 million on dating scams linked to COVID-19.

Cryptocurrency could come into play. The FBI has seen an increase in crimes where the romantic con artist seeks to help you invest or trade cryptocurrency. Once registered, the victim may be able to withdraw funds, as a sign of confidence. But as larger investments are required – often it is necessary to act quickly, they say – all communication can be interrupted.

The Senate Committee on Aging published a report on scams targeting seniors, including dating scams, on its website.

FTC tips for tackling romantic scammers

Stop talking. If you think you are dealing with a con artist in love, stop communicating with him immediately.

Do not give out personal information. Don’t discuss your financial situation with people you don’t know or can’t trust. Do not share your banking information, social security number, copies of your identity card or passport or any other sensitive data with anyone.

Money changes everything. Never send funds or trusts suggested by someone you have only met online.

Ask a friend or family member. Talk about the situation with someone you trust and listen to them.

Do some homework. Use Google or another search engine to see if other people have reported such scammers. For example, type “oil rig con artist”. You can also use the person’s photo on Google Image. Select search by image (click on the small camera) and upload the person’s photo. If he appears under more than one name, he is probably a con artist.

Report them. You can report fraudsters to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Also notify the website or app where you logged in with the scammer.

Give me my money. If you paid a scammer with a gift card, contact the card issuer and tell them the situation and request a refund.

Prize, lottery and lottery scams have been the top scams reported by adults aged 80 and over, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Other scams: prices and impostors

Seniors also lost $ 69 million in 2020 to prize, lottery and lottery scams (this was the top fraud reported by adults aged 80 and over), according to the Consumer Sentinel Network of the FTC, a database of fraud reports filed directly by consumers and at the local, state level. and federal law enforcement agencies. Scams by business impostors increased from $ 34 million in 2019 to $ 65 million in 2020. Scams by government impostors totaled $ 58 million.

Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.



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