One Quarter of Americans Report Romance Scams

Inside Subprime: March 19, 2019

By Grace Austin

A surprising amount of Americans are being duped by online romance scams, and to the tune of millions of dollars a year.

Matchmaking websites like eHarmony and Match bring in millions of people looking for love. Social media platforms, such as Instagram and Facebook, are an important part of everyday life for many Americans, and dating apps like Tinder and Bumble have led to countless love connections.

So what does that mean? With a greater reliance on social media and the internet for finding personal connections, the likelihood of being a victimized by a scam increases. That’s because con artists are known to find any avenue possible to make money, whether that be through scams, identity theft or other types of financial fraud.

A new AARP survey shows that about a quarter of Americans report that either they, a family member or a friend have encountered some attempted financial scam while looking for friendship or love online.

Almost one in five report that a friend or romantic interest they met solely online has asked them for some kind of financial help, according to the survey. About 4 percent did give money to an online scammer.

And it’s draining their pocketbooks, too. Americans lost at least $143 million to online dating scams last year, according to FTC reports. That’s grown by tens of millions within the past three years. The FTC says it’s now logged more than 20,000 self-reported romance scams.

The median reported loss is now at $2,600, which the FTC says is seven times higher than other kinds of financial fraud.

In the FTC report, people over 70 recorded the highest losses, at $10,000.

AARP says there’s certain red flags for people to be aware of, including declaring love too quickly; wanting to leave the dating website to talk soon after connecting; a profile photo looking suspiciously like a model or stock photo; the suitor consistently canceling in-person meetings; and requests for money, including for things like travel or a medical emergency.

AARP says scam artists often use fake profiles, and pretending to be a military servicemember is common.

Scam artists can also use a manufactured script for profiles. Using fake profiles is known as “catfishing,” and is common enough that it even spawned an MTV show of the same name.

The FTC encourages people to do a “reverse-image” search, checking if the profile picture used shows up with another profile or match.

Scammers are known to ask victims for wire transfers or prepaid debit or gift cards.

Men should be on the lookout — they’re more likely to be victims.

The AARP survey reported most victims reported not telling anyone about the scam — but authorities encourage victims to report any crime. At the very least, it can help others.

For more information on payday loans, scams, and cash advances and check out our city and state financial guides including Illinois, Florida, Texas and more.