Crooked Casanovas used online dating scams to steal an estimated $500 million from lonely victims last year, according to a new analysis of government fraud data by Atlas VPN, an internet security provider.
Why it matters: The isolation of the lingering pandemic provided cover to fraudulent suitors who had an excuse for not meeting up in person even as they fleeced their would-be lovers out of gift cards, money — even cryptocurrency.
Details: Romance impersonators cheated potential mates out of more than $343 million in the first three quarters of 2021, according to Atlas VPN.
- The company analyzed fraud data reported to the Federal Trade Commission and saw a sharp spike during the pandemic.
- Seniors aged 60-69 were most vulnerable, but younger people also fell victim to impersonator scams on dating sites and social media platforms.
The big picture: People have grown lonelier as the pandemic has dragged on.
- A survey of 11,000 Medicare beneficiaries found that 40% said they felt less socially connected to family and friends than they did in November 2020.
- 38% said they were more stressed or anxious, and 22% said they felt more lonely or depressed.
The bottom line: As people’s well-being has declined, they have become more vulnerable to romance scams.
- The best advice: don’t send money to people you haven’t met.