A laptop open on a table with a person logged on to a dating website. There is a cup of coffee to the left of the laptop and a small cactus plant in a planter behind the coffee cup.

A person typing on a laptop and logged into a dating website.

What we’ll cover:

  • Romance scams by the numbers
  • Who scammers target
  • Why they do it
  • Rise of Sextortion
  • How to spot the scammer
  • What to do next

Romance Scams by the Numbers

In 2022, monetary losses to romance scams is estimated to be US $1.3 billion. This is based on reporting and information gathered by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the FBI.

The FBI collected via IC3.gov over 19,000 reports of romance scam & fraud, with more reported to the FTC.

The median reported loss for an individual victim of a romance scam was $4,400.

Over 40% of people reporting romance scams, were approached on social media or a dating app. The scammer quickly moved them from the app over to WhatsApp, Google Chat or Telegram.

The most common payment method used by romance scammers is Cryptocurrency and bank wire transfer, accounting for 60% of reported losses in 2022.

Who Scammers Target

Most people crave human connection, many people are lonely, and are online and looking for love/connection/soulmate. These are people scammers target.

Scammers look for vulnerability, someone looking for a love connection or romance.

Often you want to believe people are good, and well meaning. Scammers use this desire for connection with potential love interests, as a hook to get their unsuspecting target on the line.

Why They Scam

Not all scammers are the same, but many are sociopaths, driven by a desire for money, whether out of greed, or desperation.

Often, scammers are part of a larger group working together to bilk well-meaning people out of thousands of dollars.

Scammers don’t care who they hurt, how they victimize, or how many times they do it. People who scam, prey on the human impulse of the hope that all people are good, that people can change.

Rise of Sextortion

Scammers use a variety of methods to keep you engaging in your online relationship, including tactics such as love bombing, and wanting to exchange intimate photos with you.

The number of people exchanging intimate images continues to grow, and is a common exploitation tactic by scammers, to keep you talking to them, is threatening to leak your private photos.

This type of scamming is called sextortion, and it is on the rise. The reports of sextortion have increased more than eigh-tfold since 2019. People between the ages of 18-29 were over six times more likely to report sextortion than people over the age of 30.

Approximately 58% of the 2022 sextortion reports identified social media as the main contact method, with Instagram and Snapchat topping the list.

How do we spot a scammer?

Let’s discuss some of the more commonly used tactics & Red Flags so you can spot a scammer before they bilk you out of your money.

This is not an exhaustive list and are some of the ways a scammer could approach, finesse, and lie to you.

  • They target people looking for a soulmate.
  • They use the tactic of “Instant Intimacy,” lots of loving and romantic phrases & words.
  • Call you an affectionate nickname, such as “baby” or “sweetheart” or “honey” and many other variations.
  • Ask you to move off the dating app or site immediately, insisting on exchanging numbers or texting on another platform.
  • Claim to be deployed or live overseas.
  • They say they move around a lot for work but are vague with details.
  • Excessive use of religious language. A scammer may present as very religious, faithful, claim to be a Christian or of deep faith; This is a very common tactic.
  • If they give you a phone number from a country different than the one you expected.
  • They won’t meet face to face, or keep putting off the meeting.
  • They don’t want to do a video call or be on Facetime, and will only text, write emails or call.
  • Claim to be a widow/widower with or without children, accompanied with a sad story. For example, their wife/husband just died from cancer, and they’re still grieving.
  • They make plans to travel and cancel at the last minute.
  • If they ask for gift cards, cash, wire transfer for a medical emergency, hospital bills, for a sick child, visas, documents, or financial losses.
  • If they have only a few pics on their profile and a lot of friends of a similar type (Example: Only women), and no personal posts.

There are exceptions. Sometimes, catfish (impersonating a real person) will copy an entire profile of a person, including the profile photo, their photo albums, updates, posts, friends, everything to appear to be a real person. This list is not exhaustive, but these are some of the most common Red Flags.

Steps You Can Take if This Happens to You

Here’s a few steps you can take to protect yourself from romance scams.

The first thing to do is basic due diligence.

Check out their social media profiles, and Google search their name. Look for slight misspellings or variants of the name. It’s common for scammers to use an American name to make you feel comfortable engaging with them.

Try a reverse image search their profile pics using Tin Eye https://www.tineye.com & Google Image Search https://images.google.com to see if the profile images show up on other sites, platforms, or dating apps.

Limit the personal details you provide to someone you’ve just met online, or in person. You’re still in the assessment phase and getting to know someone, if they’re telling you their entire life story in the first few days and love bombing you, it’s likely a scam.

If you receive Facebook messages, DMs, emails or profile messages, copy and paste them into a search engine. If the messages are copies, they often show up on dating scam sites. Yes, there are sites that watch for these scams and have pages of copy and pasted messages from common romance scams.

If you think you’re being scammed, and you find evidence or proof of the scammer, screenshot, and document everything you have, BEFORE you report the account. Your goal here, is to ensure you have documentation to support your claim, especially if the scammer has stolen money from you and commits fraud. Once you report an account, it might come under review or be taken down before you’ve gathered all your evidence.

After you’ve gathered your documentation and evidence, report the account and the scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can report almost any type of fraud or scam, and this helps the government track the scammers and fraud. Often scammers have thousands of victims and work in groups to target as many people as possible.

Navigate to the report fraud page and the online assistant walks you through the steps to report the scam/fraud. When you out the information, the assistant guides you through the rest of the report, and gives you a record. If you ever have to go to court the report can help protect you from further identity theft & fraud.

Report the scam to the FBI at https://www.ic3.gov/ and then file a police report. Take the report from the FTC with you to the police station. This is important. If you met this person, and gave them money, or they have information on you, they may try steal your identity.

Reporting the person creates a trail of documentation, reports and information, a place to start if, and when they are caught, or charges are filed. Take all the information you have, logs, texts, screenshots, emails, messages, audio recordings, voice messages, and use it to build your report and potential case.

Final Thoughts

People often feel shame or embarrassment and don’t want report their experience or that they were scammed. This is how scammers get away with money and with their fraud. Reporting them can help identify patterns of criminal behavior to stop the scammers.

Believing the best about someone isn’t a bad thing, and you talking about what happened to you with friends and family can help protect others in the future from a variety of scams. You’ll need an emotional support network of trusted friends or family to help you through the trauma of being scammed. Don’t try and go through this alone, please take care of yourself.

If you’re being scammed or sextorted, please report it to the proper authorities, including local police, and the FBI. If you’re still needing assistance, you can book a consult here: https://lockdownyourlife.as.me/strategy