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SCAMS: Romance Scammers Are Heartless

In our own hustle and bustle of the holidays, we often forget that many people feel very lonely at this time of the year. This can make a person even more vulnerable to one of the worst scams out there…romance scams. Last year, people reported losing $143 million to romance scams, a higher total than for any other type of scam reported to the Federal Trade Commission.

Romance scams usually begin online…you meet someone, possibly through a game or some other activity. The person lavishes you with attention, talks about wanting to meet but circumstances prevent that from happening. Then they ask you for money. Usually the money is requested by wire transfer or gift card. They might claim they need it for a medical emergency or to come visit you.

Romance scammers are hard at work wooing people on dating apps and social media. They may lift photos to create an attractive profile or even steal the identify of a real person. They are patient and will spend a great deal of time trying to earn your trust because they know the payoff can be big when someone’s heart is involved.

How can you avoid romance scams?

• Never send money or gifts to a sweetheart you haven’t met in person

• Take it slow. Ask questions and look for inconsistent answers. Claims to be widowed but later says divorced. Number of children and their ages.

• Check the person’s photo using your search engine’s “search by image” feature. If the picture shows up with a different name that is a huge red flag!

• Talk to someone about this new love interest. And pay attention if your friends or family are concerned.

• Listen for common themes: he/she lives in another part of the country, is here from another country for business, or is abroad for military deployment.

The 50-plus age group is the faster growing share of dating websites. While the median loss for all victims of this scam is $2,600, the median for persons age 70+ was over $10,000.

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