Romance Scams: ‘Not only breaks the heart but also the bank’

Local News

Courtesy: FTC

Utah (ABC4) – Valentines Day is around the corner, and the Utah Department of Public Safety is warning of potential internet scams. 

“With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, we thought it was a good time to share information about romance scams,” the Utah Department of Public Safety shared on Facebook.

In the past two years, more people reported losing money to romance scams than to any other fraud reported, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

These scams are referred to as “romance scams” and according to the FTC, millions of people turn to online dating apps or social networking sites to meet someone. This time of year, instead of finding romance, they many find a scammer trying to trick them into sending money. 

Sgt. Jeffrey Plank, FBI Cyber Task Force with the Utah Department of Public Safety, tells ABC4 that romance scams are common in Utah. 

“Although I don’t believe the romance scams that we’re used to seeing an increase with Valentine’s Day, the romance scam is still a very nefarious scheme that not only breaks the heart but also the bank,” Sgt. Plank Shares.

He says common romance scams work in conjunction with business email compromise scams which cause billions in loss every year. 

“The biggest red flag I can think of is if the romantic interest asks for money or asks for the use of their bank account. A good rule is to never send any money to anyone you haven’t met in person first,” Sgt. Plank adds.

According to the FTC, in 2019, $201 million was reported lost in romance scams. People reported losing more money to romance scams in the past two years than to any other fraud reported to the FTC. 

Romance scammers create fake profiles on dating sites and apps or contact their targets through popular social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, or Google Hangouts. The scammers strike up a relationship with their targets to build their trust, sometimes talking or chatting several times a day. After a while, they make up a story and ask for money.

The FTC shares the following lies romance scammers often tell.

Scammers will often say they live outside of the United States, some common lies include: 

  • working on an oil rig
  • in the military
  • a doctor with an international organization

Romance scammers will ask victims for money to do some of the following things:

  • pay for a plane ticket or other travel expenses
  • pay for surgery or other medical expenses
  • pay customs fees to retrieve something
  • pay off gambling debts
  • pay for a visa or other official travel documents

Romance scammers ask people to pay by: 

  • wiring money
  • reloading cards or gift cards from vendors like Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, or Steam

Romance scams can be avoided. Remember to never send money or gifts to anyone you haven’t met in person. 

If you think you have been a victim of a romance scam, the FTC recommends you do the following. 

  • Stop communicating with the person immediately.
  • Talk to someone you trust, and pay attention if your friends or family say they’re concerned about your new love interest.
  • Do a search for the type of job the person has to see if other people have heard similar stories.
  • Do a reverse image search of the person’s profile picture to see if it’s associated with another name or with details that don’t match up – those are signs of a scam.

For more information on romance scams, visit ftc.gov.

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