Scammers are looking for love, and that’s a big problem.
The Federal Trade Commission documents a rise in so-called romance scam incidents in a similarly detailed and depressing warning. Earlier this week, ahead of Valentine’s Day, a report noted that a specific type of online confidence scheme is on the rise, and that cryptocurrency is at least partly to blame.
In a newly released data spotlight, the FTC warns that romance scam losses in 2021 were up nearly 80 percent as compared to 2020, and the total loss over the past five years has now reached $1.3 billion. As reported by the spotlight, consumers who paid romance scammers with cryptocurrency lost $139 million in total in 2021, more than any other payment method.”
Romance scams trick a victim into thinking they have found true love over a dating app or social media platform. They play out the fake relationship online, always coming up with excuses as to why they can’t meet, until they ask for some form of payment – perhaps with the promise that the money is for traveling to see their victim.
The scammers’ stories may involve a sick child or a temporary inability to get to the money for any number of reasons, the FTC says. People who lose money to romance scammers often report sending money repeatedly. They believe they’re helping someone they care about.”
Facebook and Instagram are often the common denominators in these types of scams. According to the FTC, Facebook was the starting point of 23 percent of the reported scams, and Instagram accounted for 13 percent.
For victims who paid romance scammers with cryptocurrency, the median loss was almost $10,000, says the FTC.
This type of scam has existed for a long time before cryptocurrency existed. FTC reports that roughly one quarter of all romance scam reports in 2021 involved victims sending gift cards, perhaps as a testament to how complicated cryptocurrency payments are.
As Valentine’s Day approaches, be on the lookout for online love that seems too good to be true. If your newly found Facebook lover asks you to send them Bitcoin or gift cards, it’s probably a scam.