Experts warn of Romance Scams ahead of Valentine’s Day

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MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD)– Millions of people have been scammed by people they have met on online dating apps and social networking sites.

According to the FTC, people reported losing $201 million to romance scams in 2019. 

People reported losing more money to romance scams in the past two years than to any other fraud reported to the FTC.  

The sweetheart swindlers create fake profiles or contact people directly on dating sites and social media apps.

Bailey Parker with the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs said the scams often take place over a long period of time because the scammers build trust with the victim before asking for money or information.

The FTC detailed common Romance Scams:

They’ll often say they’re living or traveling outside of the United States. We’ve heard about scammers who say they are:

  • working on an oil rig
  • in the military
  • a doctor with an international organization

We’ve heard about romance scammers asking their targets for money to:

  • pay for a plane ticket or other travel expenses
  • pay for surgery or other medical expenses
  • pay customs fees to retrieve something
  • pay off gambling debts
  • pay for a visa or other official travel documents

Scammers ask people to pay:

  • by wiring money
  • with reload cards like MoneyPak or gift cards from vendors like Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, or Steam

If you suspect a romance scam:

  • Stop communicating with the person immediately.
  • Talk to someone you trust, and pay attention if your friends or family say they’re concerned about your new love interest.
  • Do a search for the type of job the person has to see if other people have heard similar stories. For example, you could do a search for “oil rig scammer” or “US Army scammer.” You can also browse the comments on our blog posts about romance scams to hear other people’s stories:
  • Do a reverse image search of the person’ profile picture to see if it’s associated with another name or with details that don’t match up – those are signs of a scam.

If you think it’s a scam, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint. Notify the website or app where you met the scammer, too.

If you paid a romance scammer with a gift card, contact the company that issued the card right away. Tell them you paid a scammer with the gift card and ask if they can refund your money.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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