Thanks to dating websites and apps, love is easier to find than ever. Sadly, it is also easier than ever to fall victim to a romance scam.
Online dating scams are steadily increasing in frequency. According to the Federal Trade Commission, more money was stolen through these scams in 2020 than in any previous year: a jaw-dropping $304 million, a 50% increase from the previous year. The average victim of a romance scam in 2020 lost $2500.
If you have been the victim of an online scam, you are clearly not alone.
How Romance Scammers Operate
The FTC identifies a few common practices of online dating scammers:
- They often claim to be overseas for business or military deployment.
- They ask their victims for money to cover travel expenses, medical bills, or gambling debts.
- They insist that their victims send money through wire transfer or reloadable gift cards, making the transactions difficult to trace or reverse.
What to Do If You Are a Victim of a Romance Scam
If you have been taken in by an online dating scam, there is no need to be ashamed. Thousands of people are victimized by these thieves every year. In fact, they bank on their victims being too embarrassed to report the fraud.
Don’t let them get away with it.
The FBI recommends the following actions if a romance scammer has victimized you:
- Contact your bank immediately and explain what has happened. They may be able to reverse the transaction.
- Ask your bank to contact the financial institution to which the funds were sent.
- Report the fraud to the dating site or app on which you first encountered the scammer.
- Contact your local FBI field office.
- Report the fraud to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
You can also report the romance scam to the FTC, which shares the details with more than 3000 law enforcers.
Unfortunately, in many cases, especially those involving reloadable gift cards, it is unlikely that you will be able to recover the money you have lost through online dating scams.
However, reporting the scam to the FBI, FTC, and other relevant institutions will help law enforcement track down the perpetrators of these crimes. While the chances that your funds will be returned to you are slim (though not by any means non-existent), you could help bring online romance scammers to justice and prevent them from conning future victims.