Online dating has been one of the most popular ways to find lasting love or a romantic interest in the past several years. And like any good thing that has become popular, it has created opportunities for scammers. In fact, people have reported losing around $1.3 billion to romance scams in the past five years and it reached an astounding record of $547 million in 2021. That is an 80% increase compared to 2020 and six times the reported loss of value in 2017. Most people who fell victim to online investment scams and online dating scams lost a median amount of $2,400.
People fall for romance scams because the scammers are adept at disguising who they are as well as their intent. They often use fake profiles with photos taken from the web or stolen from real people. They can also create a tailored persona by studying the information shared by someone online and presenting themselves as the perfect mate. The persona that they create usually includes details that are built-in excuses for not meeting in person. One example would be a scammer who is claiming to be working as military personnel abroad or a fraudster claiming to be working as an offshore personnel in an oil rig.
Most individuals who fell victim to an online romance scam were contacted via dating apps by random people. Some were contacted on social media and were not even looking for love. About a third of people who fell for a romance scam in 2021 were contacted via Instagram or Facebook.
The scammers weave all sorts of believable tales to defraud people, but note that their usual M.O. is that they are in a financial or health crisis. The so called “crisis” tend to have no end in sight as long as the money keeps coming and is made available to them. The narrative may involve a sick family member or child, at times, they may also indicate that they have fell victim to a scam or a fraud of some sort and need your help. These scammers may also try to get your buy in by saying they need help in cashing in on an inheritance they have received from a relative abroad or state that they need to move funds in order to solidify a lucrative business deal. What tends to happen is these victims essentially become money mules and think that they’re just helping. They could fall unsuspecting to money laundering schemes or even get tricked into sending their own money. These fictious transfers could also involve exorbitant fees that the victim will shell out believing that they will be repaid later.
Fraudulent or fictitious investments in form of cryptocurrency became a growing trend in 2021 for many scammers. The victims believed that their new online friend is someone who is well versed in crypto or is a successful investor who is only trying to help them navigate this new way of making money. And so, they end up investing large sums of their savings following bogus advice. Then the scammer will basically disappear with the invested funds, because they were never invested in the first place.