Romance scams hit a record $547 million

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) – Millions of people use online dating apps or social media platforms to meet someone. Online dating can be a great way to find lasting love, but it also comes with risks. But instead of finding a romantic relationship, many find a scammer trying to trick them into sending money and stealing their information.

A record $547 million was reported lost to these scams in 2021. There were approximately 56,000 reports filed last year and dollar losses have been increasing among victims of all age brackets.

Scammers use social engineering to quickly gain your trust.

WAFF spoke with Ashish Baria, Senior Assistant Vice President for Information Security at Redstone Federal Credit Union. He says these are red flags to watch out for:

  • work at sea: They often say that they are from the United States and that they are currently working in another country. They use excuses such as: working on an oil rig, working as a doctor in an international organization or being deployed on a military mission.
  • Communicate offline: They may ask you to quickly leave the dating site and communicate with them directly via chat or messaging platforms.
  • Will ask for money: If your online interest is asking for money, back off and walk away. They will use excuses such as: paying for an emergency medical procedure, needing to fix a car, paying customs fees, paying for a visa or travel documents, or even a plane ticket to visit you.
  • Payment method: The scammer will usually ask you to pay by bank transfer, reloadable gift cards or Amazon and iTunes gift cards. They use these methods because they are difficult to trace. Sometimes they may ask you for your banking information to deposit money, so they can use your account to perform other scams.
  • Meet in person: They will make plans to meet in person, but will always come up with a last minute excuse and cancel the meeting.

Action items: (things to do if you think this is happening to you)

  • Immediately stop communicating with the person and talk to someone you trust.
  • Do some research online, find the person and see if that name or job has ever been used in another scam, use Google’s “image search” to scan the person’s photo.
  • Contact your financial institution immediately if you think you have paid a scammer.
  • If it’s too late for that and you’ve already been the victim of a romance scam, file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. You can file a report at: https://www.ic3.gov/
  • You should also contact your financial institution immediately.

For more ways to save, be sure to tune in at noon every Friday for the “Financial Friday” segment of WAFF 48.

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