loneliness pushed many Americans online in search of a love connection. But romance scams often left them with an empty bank account as well as a broken heart.
For the past three years, people have reported losing more money on romance scams than on any other type of fraud, according to the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Database. Last year, the reported losses for romance fraud reached a record $304 million, up about 50 percent from 2019. Adults 60 and older reported losing about $139 million to romance scams in 2020, a new report from the FTC finds. That’s a significant increase from the $84 million seniors lost to such scams in 2019.
It’s important to note this is only what people reported to authorities. In this loathsome scheme, con artists use fake dating profiles to impersonate people looking for romantic relationships. The contact could also start as a friend request or message on a social media platform. The criminals ultimately persuade their victims to send them money via gift cards or wire transfers. Before covid, schemers made up all kinds of reasons not to meet in person, and the repeated cancellations could alert some people that they were being bamboozled. But the pandemic has given criminals cover. Guidelines on social distancing provided a plausible excuse to keep the relationship online and avoid meeting in-person.
“What scammers do in a romance scam is they make up reasons why they can’t meet their supposed love in person,” says Kati Daffan, an assistant director in the Federal Trade Commission’s division of marketing practices.
The pandemic inspired new twists to the stories that scammers typically use to defraud their victims. scammers are incredible about coming up with believable stories – he couldn’t travel because of the pandemic or because of a supposed positive covid-19 test.
The FBI estimates that more than 23,000 people lost more than $600 million in confidence fraud, including romance scams, last year. This is up from $475 million in 2019. Kathy Stokes, director of AARP Fraud Prevention Programs. blames isolation because of the pandemic, loneliness and, in the case of a widow or widower, grieving. These make people more vulnerable and susceptible to being generous. Scams can go on for months or years, draining people’s life savings. One victim lost half a million dollars. Once they realize that it has been a scam, they are devastated financially and emotionally. Some take their own lives.
Criminal enterprises, often transnational, target widowed and divorced seniors on dating sites such as Match.com, Christian Mingle, JSwipe, and PlentyofFish, concocting sob stories about needing funds to pay taxes, cover travel costs or pay down debt. Many victims are often too embarrassed to come forward and admit they were hoodwinked. (Edited version of articles by Michelle Singletary, The Washington Post and Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News).
My comment: Epicurus believed in peace of mind above all. Ataraxia in ancient Greek. Peace of mind has to be accompanied with care in dealing with over- friendly strangers, who have been with us for centuries. “Buyer beware!”