Millions of people turn to online dating apps or social networking sites to meet someone. But instead of finding romance, many find a scammer trying to trick them into sending money. Read about the stories romance scammers make up and learn the #1 tip for avoiding a romance scam.
In 2018, people reported losing $143 million to romance scam a higher total than for any other type of scam reported to the FTC. The median reported loss was $2,600, and, for people over 70, it was $10,000.
Romance scammers create fake profiles on dating sites and apps, or contact their targets through popular social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, or Google Hangouts. The scammers strike up a relationship with their targets to build their trust, sometimes talking or chatting several times a day. Then, they make up a story and ask for money.
They often say they are living or traveling outside of the United States. We've heard about scammers who say they are:
- + Working on an oil rig
- + Serving 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 you to pay by wiring money, with reload cards, or with gift cards because they can get cash quickly and remain anonymous. They also know the transactions are almost impossible to reverse.
Here is the bottom line: Never send money or gifts to a sweetheart you have not met in person.
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 are 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 scammers or US Army scammers. You can also browse the comments on ftc.gov blog posts about romance scams to hear other people 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 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.
Resources for Help, Support, or Advice
If you feel you are in immediate danger or need emergency assistance, call 911 (U.S. or Canada) or your local law enforcement agency.
1-800-230-7526 | www.plannedparenthood.org
1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 | www.thehotline.org
1-888-272-7888 or text 233733 | www.humantraffickinghotline.org
1-877-739-3895 | www.nsvrc.org
1-800-THE-LOST (843-5678) | www.cybertipline.com
1-844-878-2274 | www.cybercivilrights.org
1-855-4VICTIM (855-484-2856) | www.victimconnect.org
1-888-843-4564 | www.glbtnationalhelpcenter.org
1-877-565-8860 (US) or 1-877-330-6366 (CA) | www.translifeline.org