A fool – in love – and their money are easily separated
That begs the question: how are the scammers finding potential victims?
“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,” according to the commission. “The scammers strike up a relationship with their targets to build their trust, sometimes talking or chatting several times a day.”
But then comes the biggest red flag you are dealing with a scammer: after days or weeks of flowery words and protestations of deep affections comes the cleverly disguised pitch. “Then, they make up a story and ask for money.”
“While many people report losing money on romance scams that start on dating apps, even more say they were targeted on social media,” according to the FTC. “These social media users aren’t always looking for love, and report that the scam often starts with an unexpected friend request or message.”
In these stressful and emotional ploys, the scammers have an arsenal of psychological tactics to get someone to open the purse strings.
“They might say it’s for a phone card to keep chatting,” according to the FTC. “Or they might claim it’s for a medical emergency, with COVID-19 often sprinkled into their tales of woe. The stories are endless, and can create a sense of urgency that pushes people to send money over and over again.”
But ironically, at some point during the relationship, the scammers – acting as professional launderers for organized fraud or criminal syndicates – start sending money or items back to the victim to employ them as an illicit mule tool.
“What many of the largest reported dollar losses have in common is that people believe their new partner has actually sent them a large sum of money,” the FTC noted.
Scammers “claim to have sent money for a cooked-up reason, and then have a detailed story about why the money needs to be sent back to them or on to someone else,” according to interviews with victims and investigators.
People think they’re helping someone they care about, but they may “actually be laundering stolen funds.”
In fact, many reported that the “money they received and forwarded on turned out to be stolen unemployment benefits,” tied to the still-raging COVID-19 pandemic, with foreign fraudsters stealing from those already hanging by a financial thread.
To read the full FTC report on the surging romance scam menace, click here.
To peruse on FTC resource page on romance scams, click here.