Mike CrapoIn the past, I have written about tax season scams to try to help raise awareness so that Americans do not fall victim to fraud that robs people of their hard-earned money.  The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently alerted the public to romance scams that the commission reports has resulted in more financial losses than any other form of consumer fraud.

The FTC reported that there has been a major increase in reports of romance scams from 8,500 reports and losses of $33 million in 2015 to 21,000 reports and $143 million in losses in 2018.  The FTC found that the median individual reported loss of $2,600 is about seven times higher than for other frauds.

The FTC explains, “Romance scammers lure people with phony online profiles, often lifting photos from the web to create attractive and convincing personas.  They might make up names or assume the identities of real people.  Reports indicate the scammers are active on dating apps, but also on social media sites that aren’t generally used for dating. . . . Once these fraudsters have people by the heartstrings, they say they need money, often for a medical emergency or some other misfortune.”

The FTC has outlined a number of tips on what to look for and consider related to these scams.  These recommendations include never sending money or gifts to someone not met in person; paying attention to concerns of friends and family; and asking many questions and looking for inconsistent answers.  The FTC also suggests trying reverse-image searches of profile pictures and warns, “If they’re associated with another name or with details that don’t match up, it’s a scam.” 

Additional information to help spot these and other types of “imposter scams,” such as nanny and caregiver imposter scams; family emergency scams; Internal Revenue Service imposter scams; government imposter scams; tech support scams; and even grandkid imposter scams can be found atwww.ftc.gov/imposters.  And, suspicious profiles or messages can be reported at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.  

It is unfortunate that Americans have to be on alert for the many creative and prevalent ways fraudsters use to manipulate and steal from unsuspecting victims.  The more widespread the information is on what to look for and where to seek assistance can hopefully lead to these scams drying up for good.