Over half of all Americans participated in Valentine’s Day and spent an estimated $20 million to mark the holiday in 2016. That money is spent primarily on significant others but also on children, parents, co-workers and even pets. Better Business Bureau® serving Eastern Oklahoma warns consumers to be wary of scammers who may attempt to make it on your list of gift recipients via a romance scam.
In 2015 the FBI reported a loss of more than $203 million by 12,509 self-reported victims. The amount of romance scams, also known as confidence fraud, reported in 2015 more than doubled from the previous year. While the number of victims affected is not overwhelming, the amount of money lost is the second highest grossing type of crime. The FBI also believes these figures are just the tip of the iceberg as they estimate only 10% of victims file a report through the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). It seems scammers aren't only satisfied with stealing money they've also begun to involve unsuspecting targets in their crime.
How the Scam Works
Romance scams start with fake profiles on social media, dating sites or dating apps. They may not seem suspicious, but usually, they include images and personal details stolen from a real person's profile. Scammers often claim they reside overseas and can’t meet in person. Often scammers pretend to be military members to make themselves seem trustworthy. Over time, they begin to build a relationship with their target by writing them romantic messages, sharing photos, or supposed details about their family. Some victims reported being introduced to the scammer's child. Before you know it, you care about and trust this person. That’s usually when they or their child need money for a health issue, school event or travel expenses.
A recent version of the scam includes involving targets in online banking fraud. Scammers persuade their sweetheart to set up a bank account into which they transfer stolen money. They then ask their victim to wire the money out of the country. Typically, the requests continue once a fraudster has successfully received money or convinced you to transfer money.
BBB Shares these tips for guarding against romance scams:
If you’ve fallen for one of these scams, it’s unlikely you’ll get your money back. If you come across someone claiming they can help you recover your money for a small fee, it may be the scammer coming back for a second pass. Here’s what you can do: