Valentine's Day is upon us once again, which has prompted me to take a stroll down memory lane and reminiscence about watching/binging the ever drama-filled reality show "90 Day Fiancé." (Pro tip: if you are ever feeling down about your love prospects, watch "90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way" -- you won't be disappointed). As the story of each budding romance unfolded, I couldn't help but wonder, "Are they really in love . . . or is this another case of a love scam headed for heartbreak and an empty bank account?" It looks like those unfortunate souls on the show are not the only ones getting scammed in the name of love.
With the proliferation of dating apps and social media platforms, love scams are just a click away these days and the Federal Trade Commission has taken notice. The agency recently released data from its Consumer Sentinel Network showing that consumers reported losing $201 million to romance scams in 2019, amounting to more than 25,000 consumer complaints. Romance scams also happened to be the costliest type of scam reported to the FTC in 2019 and 2018. Romance scams have skyrocketed over the years — up from $33 million in consumer losses in 2015!
What may start off as an innocent match on a dating website can quickly evolve from a love connection into a scam for money, oftentimes against the backdrop of a fabricated crisis which calls for financial backup. What are some signs that a scammer is on the other end of that seemingly dashing profile?: (1) they say they live outside of the United States, (2) they profess their undying love quickly, maybe too quickly, and (3) they ask for money, perhaps in the form of a money wire, a refillable card, or gift cards (the less traceable, the better!). They may allege that the money is for a plane ticket to see you, medical expenses, or to pay for a visa or other travel documents.
The FTC is sure to continue to keep an eye on romance scams, which means that dating apps and social media platforms should be cognizant about how their platforms are being used to ensure users are falling in love instead of falling prey to a love scam.
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