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Completely satisfied Valentine's Day: The pandemic has been a boon to on-line romance scams

Scammers raised $ 304 million from victims last year, up 50% from 2019, according to the FTC.

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February
12, 2021

3 min read

This story originally appeared on PC Mag

Romantic scammers are raking in the batter thanks to lonely singles stuck at home during the pandemic.

In 2020, the scammers got people to give up $ 304 million, a 50% increase over the previous year, according to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. The number of reports the FTC received from victims of romance scams also reached 32,792, a 30% increase from the previous year.

What hasn't changed is how much the scammers have generally extracted from unsuspecting victims. Individuals gave up a median of $ 2,500, which is the same as the losses reported in 2018.

Photo credit: FTC

The scams are usually a "too good to be true" profile on a dating app or social media platform of someone trying to sneak their way into your heart. It is often loaded with pictures of an attractive person. In reality, however, it's just a ploy to trick you into sending money to the wrong lover, usually via bank transfer or by buying digital gift cards.

A red flag for a love scam is when the alleged applicant gives reasons why they can't see you in person. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has only given the scammers seemingly legitimate excuses to avoid meeting.

"The pandemic has both made this easier and changed their stories. Many people reported that their so-called suitor claimed they could not travel because of the pandemic," the FTC said. "Some scammers have reportedly even canceled plans for the first appointment based on an alleged positive COVID-19 test."

The pandemic has also given the scammers another reason to ask people for money. According to the FTC, some victims reported that the scammers claimed they had a medical emergency due to COVID-19.

Interestingly, the romance scammers can also do the opposite and send money to the victims. However, the FTC says the money sent is usually laundering stolen money from another crime. "In fact, many reported that the money they received and passed on was found to be stolen unemployment benefit," the regulator added.

Victims aged 20 to 29 saw the largest increase in romance scams. However, it was those over 70 who reported losing the most money, with each median loss being $ 9,475.

The FTC has a number of tips on how to protect yourself from a romantic scam. One notable technique is to do a reverse image search on the photos on your applicants' profile page. This can show if your photos are from another source.

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