Consumer Alert: Here’s how to spot a romance scam

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – It’s Valentine’s Day.  And if you’re looking for love in all the wrong places, it can cost you.  The FTC just issued a warning about romance scams.  And it’s bad. Seventy thousand Americans $1.3 billion to romance scams last year.  That’s about the same amount as the previous five years combined.

And the FTC says that social media is making the scam really easy.  After all, our lives are on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The scammer studies your posts and gets to know your likes and dislikes. You love long walks in the park?  By golly, so does he!  You like scary movies?  Ah!  The scammer does as well!  And that makes it easy to reach out and form a connection.  Then he or she asks for money.

According to the FTC, these are the top five lies reported to them last year.

  • Someone close to me is sick, hurt, or in jail. (24%)
  • I can teach you how to invest. (18%)
  • I’m in the military and stationed far away. (18%)
  • I need help with an important delivery. (18%)
  • We’ve never met, but let’s talk about marriage. (12%)

And according to the FTC, they’re stealing a lot of money.  The median lost to romance scammers last year was $4,400 last year.  The scammers most often asked for money in cryptocurrency followed by wire transfers or payments.  And scammers most often use social media to initially contact you with Instagram and Snapchat at the top of the list.

The FTC says watch out for warning signs. No legitimate investor will ask you to send cryptocurrency, give them numbers on a gift card, or by wiring money.  And whenever you meet someone on social media, copy their profile picture and run a reverse image search.  You might just learn they’ve stolen that pretty picture from someone else’s profile.

The National Cybersecurity Alliance has a great romance scams toolkit.  Click here to get one.