For many years now, each February, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued a report reminding us that love is indeed a battlefield and that life is not always like an episode of Hart to Hart. The latest FTC data about romance scams states that the dollars (not including heartache) lost to online romance scammers have increased 80 percent since 2020, to a total reported value of $547 million in 2021. And keep in mind, the real problem is far greater; this report simply includes information that consumers have provided to the FTC or to other law enforcement agencies that share data with the agency.
The report provides some interesting trend information. For example, we are now seeing the use of cryptocurrency in these scams. The FTC reported that of the $547 million total, a stunning $139 million was paid in cryptocurrency. And although older folks reported higher losses to scammers, it is noteworthy that reports from the 18-29 age group have grown dramatically over the past few years.
The FTC has a great microsite dedicated to romance scams that provides helpful information (and a great video) about warning signs to look for and advises that you “never send money or gifts to a sweetheart you haven’t met in person.” Romance scammers use all the online impersonation tricks of the trade – faking identities, pretending to be in the military and stationed abroad, and always having emergencies that lead to the inevitable requests for funds.
You may be wondering why we are highlighting this issue in a blog dedicated to advertising. Well, it is a bit off topic for us, but it’s an important consumer protection issue that is causing very real harm on an enormous scale. It is a great reminder that online trickery still exists and that love does not always keep us together.