CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Loneliness can become a big issue during this time of year.
According to the website comparitech.com, romance scams have already cost Texans nearly $66 million dollars this year; and that amount is expected to climb to as much as $800 million dollars by year’s end.
Comparitech.com is a company based in the UK. Their website says “we put security, privacy and networking services to the test so you can make make more informed purchases.”
Paul Bischoff is an editor and consumer privacy expert for Comparitech. He says the FBI is among the agencies they work closely with.
A headline on their website reads “Nearly 100,000 Americans Set to Lose $800 miilion to Romance Scams This Year.” The story goes on to say Texas has seen more than 8,000 cases already this year, costing victims nearly $66 million dollars.
Bischoff says there are more, they’re just unreported.
He describes how the scams start on social media or a dating app.
“It usually starts with someone getting in contact with the victim and trying to start a romantic relationship with them with the ultimate goal of trying to scam them out of money, or get them to conduct some other sort of illegal service like that.”
And the scam can go on for a very long time, he adds, even after the victim realizes what’s happened, because they’re already emotionally involved or too embarrassed to ask for help. It happens to women, men, and young adults.
So what can you do to protect yourself if you get the sense you’re becoming a victim? How can you protect yourself?
“Scammers usually don’t use their own photos in their profile images on social media or dating app, so you can download that photo,” Bischoff says. “Put it in Google Search and do what’s called a reverse image search. You can see if that photo has been used anywhere or if it belongs to anyone else.”
Also, report it to your bank immediately. File a police report. Report it to the Federal Trade Commission and the website or dating app you used.