CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Valentine’s Day is approaching, and authorities are warning South Carolinians to be aware of online romance scams.
Utilizing social apps has changed the landscape when it comes to dating, especially during the pandemic. Officials say you should be on alert for fraudsters who are simply looking to steal your money.
“Scammers never let up their criminal efforts, not even on Valentine’s Day,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina, Peter McCoy Jr. “Be aware: it is not true love if sweet-talking chatter quickly turns into requests for money.”
U.S. Attorney McCoy offered some signs to look for when it comes to recognizing an online romance scam.
“It is likely a scam if the person you have just connected with online and have never met in person professes love quickly,” he said. “Also be wary of someone claiming to be overseas for business or military service, someone asking for money and quickly attempting to lure you off the dating site, someone who plans to visit but can’t because of an emergency, and someone claiming to need money – for emergencies, hospital bills, or travel.”
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that there were $304 million in reported loses from romance scams in 2020. In 2019, the FTC reports over 25,000 consumers filed a report with the FTC about romance scams and reported losses of $201 million to romance scams.
Additional reports show that, over a three-year period, losses to romance scams were higher than any other scam reported to the FTC.
“The crimes involving romance scams are increasing at an alarming rate,” said McCoy. “From 2015 to 2020, the total amount of money lost by victims increased from $33 million to $304 million. This clearly isn’t going away, and the public should take precautions accordingly.”
U.S. Attorney McCoy urges South Carolinians to:
– Ensure the dating site does not sell personal data to third parties or advertisers.
– Do a reverse image search of the person’s profile picture. If it is associated with another name or with details that do not match up, it is a scam.
– Search online for the type of job the person claims to have and check to see if others have reported romance scams based on that job. For example, search for “oil rig scammer” or “overseas military scammer.”
– Do not let scammers rush you. Slow down and talk to someone you trust before taking any quick action on requests made by someone you have not met in person.
– Do not send intimate photos to an online acquaintance, as they could be used to extort you later.
– Never transfer money from your bank account, never buy gift cards, and never wire money to an online love interest.
– Immediately contact your bank if you think you’ve sent money to a scammer.
If you become a victim, U.S. Attorney McCoy says you should not feel too ashamed or afraid to report it. Report your experience to the FTC by phone to 1-877-382-4357 or online at www.ftc.gov/complaint. And report it to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.