- Bottle of wine – Check
- Box of chocolates – Check
- One dozen long-stemmed roses – Check
- Depressing FTC reminder about the scourge of romance scams – sigh – Check
Valentine’s Day is almost here, and it is time for the annual reminder from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that for those seeking love, scam artists are lurking, scheming, and trying hard to separate you from your savings. And we are here to tell you about it because it’s a pretty major source of fraud, and we want this holiday to be a bit more about romance and a bit less about duplicity and deception. Think flowers instead of fraud. Hearts instead of heists. Chocolates instead of co-opted crypto. Bonbons instead of bank fraud. Show tickets instead of subpoenas.
We know that romance scams are a bit off topic from what we usually write about, but we love this holiday, and knowing that so many people suffer real harm from romance scams brings us down.
So if you are Looking for a New Love, let’s steer clear of Tainted Love in 2023 and focus a bit more on Real Love.
What is the FTC reporting this year on romance scams? More of the same – but it continues to be quite bad – with scam artists finding romance scam victims on dating sites and in social media. The numbers are shocking, with 70,000 reporting to the FTC about being victims of romance scams, to the tune of more than $1.3 billion, with a median harm of $4,400. And as the FTC describes it, these romance scams take some fairly standard approaches – with mysterious strangers explaining that they can’t meet in real life because they are in the military and stationed abroad or are working on an oil rig (which is oddly specific, but certainly makes practical sense). Scammers also pretend to be helpful – offering to assist with crypto investments or indicating that they are going to send their beloved a wonderful and valuable gift, but they need the payment of custom fees. Of course, none of this is true.
And the FTC also reports on a new aspect of romance scams – something called “sextortion,” which is growing in prevalence. This is as bad as it sounds – and it occurs when the romance scammer extorts the victim by threatening to send explicit photos of the victim to their social media network.
We don’t want our readers to fall victim to any of these scams. So we share helpful tips verbatim that were provided by the agency:
- Nobody legit will ever ask you to help – or insist that you invest – by sending cryptocurrency, giving the numbers on a gift card, or wiring money. Anyone who does is a scammer.
- If someone tells you to send money to receive a package, you can bet it’s a scam.
- Talk to friends or family about a new love interest and pay attention if they’re concerned.
- Try a reverse image search of profile pictures. If the details don’t match up, it’s a scam.
And the agency even has a great animated video about the scourge of romance scams and warning signs to look for.
With that, we return to our annual binge of Love Boat.