Valentine’s Day is one of flowers, candy and dates for many but it also brings an increase in scammers trying to take advantage of those looking for romance. Recently, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released an article addressing the rise in reports of internet romance scams.
In this type of fraud, cyber criminals gain confidence of their victims, often over a long period of time, and trick them into sending money. The criminals will use dating apps and social networking sites to create online relationships and will work hard at wooing people and then after a period of time, will ask for money. Usually they want the money by wire transfer or gift card, claiming they need it for a medical emergency or to come for a visit.
The scammer’s payoff can be big. Last year, people reported a median loss of $2,600 from romance scams and it is the highest total–$143 million lost–than other type of scam reported to the FTC.
How can you avoid romance scams?
- Never send money or gifts to someone you have not met in person.
- Take it slowly. Ask a lot of questions and look for inconsistent answers.
- Talk to someone about this new love interest. The cyber criminals prey on emotions. Tell a trusted family member or friend about this new relationship, and see if they have concerns.
- If you suspect a romance scam, cut off contact right away and report the incident to the FTC at gov/complaint.
These types of scams, using phishing schemes, can also target people who aren’t looking for romance on social networking sites. Tax-related identity theft is another area of concern as many are starting to file their taxes. Scam artists will pose as legitimate entities, like the Internal Revenue Service or other government agencies, in an attempt to defraud taxpayers.
Want to learn more about how you can keep your heart–and your wallet–safe? Start here.