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Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the FTC staff released a Data Spotlight highlighting the category of scam with the highest amount of reported financial loss among complaint categories the FTC uses to track fraud. The category may surprise, but here’s a hint. In the words of Bon Jovi, these con artists “give love a bad name.”

The category is romance scams and the statistics are staggering. In 2018, Consumer Sentinel – a central hub for consumer complaints managed by the FTC – received more than 21,000 reports about romance scams, with people claiming to lose $143 million to Casanovas and femme fatales. Compare that to 2015 with 8,500 Sentinel reports totaling $33 million in losses, and it seems clear that more scammers, swindlers, and catfishers are (we’ll quote Bon Jovi again) “Living in Sin” by stealing people’s hearts and then their cash.

Romance scammers are experts at the long con. To create the illusion of a love affair, they lavish their online inamorata with poetry and passion, often using dreamy photos they’ve stolen with a right click of a mouse. Once they’ve won the person’s trust, the sob story unfolds. Maybe it’s a medical emergency, a financial crisis while doing business abroad, or upfront travel expenses for that longed-for face-to-face meeting. But at some point, they all ask for money, usually by wire transfer, gift card, or a reloadable card like MoneyPak.

The Data Spotlight reveals some interesting nuggets. For example, people who said they were between 40 and 69 reported losing money to romance scams at the highest rate – more than twice the rate of 20-somethings. People 70 and over report the highest median financial losses at $10,000.

Why mention romance scams here? Because you may have a colleague or family member who has fallen in love with a person they have yet to meet. It’s a conversation that calls for sensitivity, but be a good friend and clue them into five ground rules for online romance.

  1. Don’t send money or gifts to anyone you haven’t met in person.
  2. When conversing with online suitors, take it sloooooow. Scrutinize their responses and look for inconsistent or evasive answers.
  3. Check photos by using the “search by image” feature on a search engine. If you find your online love’s picture but with someone else’s name, chances are Mr./Ms. Right is really Mr./Ms. Wrong.
  4. Love can put stars in our eyes, but you still have to evaluate the facts with a steely gaze. If you have the slightest concern, talk it over with a trusted IRL friend.
  5. If you suspect a romance scam, cut off contact right away. Report it to the FTC at And notify the dating site where you met the person.

For more information, read Online Dating Scams or watch this video. On Valentine’s Day and any other time of the year, we ♥ people who share fraud prevention resources with their social networks.



Karen Allen (not verified)
February 13, 2019
These scammers are very PATIENT! My ailing sister was in contact with one for more than six months before he asked her for money.Thankfully she reached out to me to ask what she should do. She was devastated when he broke off the contact after she said "no" to his request. These criminals prey on the weakest and most helpless. It's outrageous..
Ms Mariette (not verified)
February 13, 2019
This is good news that "they" get away with it and will be investigated.
John Copeland (not verified)
February 13, 2019
During 2018, I came in contact with over 60 "romance scammers" who used Facebook as their platform to get acquainted. The scams included everything from Amazon gift cards to replacing cell phones to money transfer requests to illegal ivory trade. Once they proposed the exchange I dropped the dime on them. Due to the volume and the "playbook" many were reading from, I was able to trace their source back to a large insurance company in Nigeria.
Pretty girl (not verified)
February 14, 2019
I have been antwice I really had a hard time believe the second was a scammer I met on Framers only last July and his name is Taylor Ryan woods I fell soon Love with him but now he hardly ever texts no more money I don’t anyy more money
Sandra Rodriguez (not verified)
April 20, 2019
My soon to be x husband, still don't believe me that hes being scammed, what else can I do to make him realize he is?

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