Pandemic helped romance scammers make a record $304 million in 2020

midian182

Posts: 6,768   +61
Staff member
In brief: The pandemic has had many effects—chip shortages, a booming video game industry, working from home becoming the norm, etc.—though one less expected consequence is the huge amount of money lost to romance scams. In 2020, a record $304 million was conned out of lonely people, an increase of around 50 percent compared to 2019.

A Federal Trade Commission report notes that for three years running, people reported losing more money to romance scams than any other type of fraud identified in the FTC’s Sentinel database. Last year saw individual median losses reach $2,500.

It appears 2020’s record was caused in part by the pandemic. With social distancing, closed venues, and so many singletons forced to stay indoors, fake online romances in which the people involved never meet became increasingly common.

The number of first-time dating app users also spiked last year. Scammers often use photos taken from the web combined with false names to lure people in—remember, that Henry Cavill/Scarlett Johansson lookalike going by the name John/Jane Smith is unlikely to be real.

Beyond dating apps, some scammers use social media to find their targets, often through unexpected friend requests or messages.

After a period in which the scammer establishes a relationship with the victim, they will eventually ask for money, often in the form of a gift card or phone card to keep communicating, or wire transfers for made-up medical emergencies. Last year saw many criminals exploit Covid-19 fears to withdraw cash from their targets by eliciting their sympathy.

Many of those who suffered the largest losses say the scammers sent them a large sum of money first. The victims are then asked to send the funds back to the scammer or someone else. This is often a way of laundering stolen funds.

While those aged 20 to 29 experienced the highest jump in reported incidents, people between 40 and 69 were most likely to report losing money in romance scams. Those aged 70 and over had the highest individual losses: $9,475.

The FTC gives the following advice to anyone looking for love online:

  • Never send money or gifts to someone you haven’t met in person – even if they send you money first.
  • Talk to someone you trust about this new love interest. It can be easy to miss things that don’t add up. So pay attention if your friends or family are concerned.
  • Take it slowly. Ask questions and look for inconsistent answers.
  • Try a reverse-image search of the profile pictures. If they’re associated with another name or with details that don’t match up, it’s a scam.

Image credit: Pixel-Shot

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QuantumPhysics

Posts: 4,870   +5,397
Valentines Day, all of the restaurants here in Long Island were open. I took my mother and sister out for lunch and then took my girlfriend out for dinner. Everyone looked so excited just to "be out" and "be in a restaurant" after we literally went almost an entire year without being able to "mingle" or being able to "dine out" in comfort.

Ultimately, people want to "date" and "enjoy others" even if that includes penpals online who want and need money.

Then there's the "love scams" from women globally who are feeling the hit of the pandemic immediately and looking for a man to finance them.

The rules above are sound: don't send money to people you don't know.

Thing is, there are some of us who have extra money, appreciate the "pen pal" and don't mind sending some money to someone who they believe to be suffering through this pandemic.

How many of you donated to charity? Is that not the same thing?

I donate annually and get the receipts to my CPA to write it off. There's even a "COVID disaster relief" discount on your taxes if you gave money to help someone.

Just write it off.
 

Uncle Al

Posts: 8,014   +6,783
I have had a pen pal from Vietnam for over 11 years. We chat every day, share pictures, talk about our cats and occasionally joke about getting together but she knows I'm restricted from long flights and the current VISA regulations make it impossible for her to get one so we just keep going. It's honestly nice knowing there are people out there that are not interested in scamming others. She might be the only one but I'm glad that she's there!
 

Avro Arrow

Posts: 1,249   +1,384
TechSpot Elite
Scammers like this have existed for as long as they've had the means to pull these scams. I remember that back in the day, Second Life was rife with them and being one of the most popular DJs in Second Life meant that I encountered them quite often. I had learnt pretty quickly that if they ask for money, no matter how soft-hearted you are, you have to block and report them. It was pretty difficult sometimes because you never knew if they were telling the truth but the odds always were that they weren't.
 

Khanonate

Posts: 188   +49
Scammers like this have existed for as long as they've had the means to pull these scams. I remember that back in the day, Second Life was rife with them and being one of the most popular DJs in Second Life meant that I encountered them quite often. I had learnt pretty quickly that if they ask for money, no matter how soft-hearted you are, you have to block and report them. It was pretty difficult sometimes because you never knew if they were telling the truth but the odds always were that they weren't.
Yeah, but if it's the truth, you just lost your soulmate...
 

Khanonate

Posts: 188   +49
Valentines Day, all of the restaurants here in Long Island were open. I took my mother and sister out for lunch and then took my girlfriend out for dinner. Everyone looked so excited just to "be out" and "be in a restaurant" after we literally went almost an entire year without being able to "mingle" or being able to "dine out" in comfort.

Ultimately, people want to "date" and "enjoy others" even if that includes penpals online who want and need money.

Then there's the "love scams" from women globally who are feeling the hit of the pandemic immediately and looking for a man to finance them.

The rules above are sound: don't send money to people you don't know.

Thing is, there are some of us who have extra money, appreciate the "pen pal" and don't mind sending some money to someone who they believe to be suffering through this pandemic.

How many of you donated to charity? Is that not the same thing?

I donate annually and get the receipts to my CPA to write it off. There's even a "COVID disaster relief" discount on your taxes if you gave money to help someone.

Just write it off.
I can see your point of view, specially with us who have extra money.