Consumers reported losing $201 million to romance scams last year — an almost 40 percent increase since 2018 per new U.S. Federal Trade Commission data from the Consumer Sentinel Network, according to a press release Wednesday (Feb. 12) from the agency.
Romance scammers put their focus toward consumers seeking love and transform the feeling of a budding relationship into a request for money to help the scammer out of a made-up emergency. The agency said in the release, “The stories and feelings can be compelling, and the losses can be huge.”
In a brochure, the agency advises consumers to “Slow down — and talk to someone you trust. Don’t let a scammer rush you.” And it advises consumers not to purchase gift cards, transfer money from their bank accounts, or wire money to an internet love interest. It also says that consumers should immediately contact their banks if they think they’ve sent money to a scammer.
The agency also recommends consumers report their experiences to the online dating site, the FTC and FBI.
Over 25,000 consumers filed a report with the agency regarding romance scams last year. And the agency noted that total reported losses were more than any other scam reported to it over the past two years. The number of romance scams that individuals report to the agency has increased by almost three times since 2015.
The agency also notes that the total amount of money individuals reported losing last year was six times higher than was the case five years prior — from only $33 million lost to romance scammers in 2015 to $201 million last year.
In February 2019, The FTC released a warning in regards to possible “romance scams,” which cost victims a collective $143 million in 2018. At the time, the agency noted that these particular types of scams cost people more than any other kind of swindling and that they were forecasted to become more common.