Romance scammers stealing hearts, savings of the innocent

Sweetheart swindlers stole $605 million last year alone, FBI reports

SAN ANTONIO – If you’re looking for love online, there is reason to guard your heart and bank account.

“Scammers are using social media, dating apps, legit dating apps and websites to reach victims,” said Jason Meza, regional director for the Better Business Bureau. “They create fake profiles and use lifted stories.”

That Romeo may be an imposter out to steal your heart and your money, consumer groups and the FBI warn.

The classic scam thrives in pandemic times when many people, at home and lonely, are spending more time online.

Last year, the FBI said it received reports of more than 23,700 victims of romance scams. Combined, they were tricked out of a whopping $605 million. The average loss is around $2,000.

“(Scammers) say all the right things and make all the right moves,” Meza said.

Those moves included shifting the conversation from the dating app or online platform to text messages and even phone calls, where they work to gain trust.

“A big red flag in these types of scams is people looking to build relationships quickly, moving fast and professing deep love very quickly,” Meza said.

Other signs that this romance is not for real include excuses to not meet in person and, of course, the need for money for some sort of emergency. The scammers also request payment in unusual forms, such as gift cards, wire transfers or cryptocurrency. They may also ask for bank account numbers.

One way to catch a thief is to do a reverse image search of the person’s profile picture.

Confiding in a close, trusted friend about the online relationship can also protect you as they may see more clearly.

These scams can be reported to the FBI, Federal Trade Commission, and the BBB, possibly protecting someone else from a bad romance.

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About the Author

Marilyn Moritz is an award-winning journalist dedicated to digging up information that can make people’s lives a little bit better. As KSAT’S 12 On Your Side Consumer reporter, she focuses on exposing scams and dangerous products and helping people save money.

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