By Guest Contributor

Romance scams are on the rise, and loneliness and new technology have contributed to the increase. In 2022, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received over 7,000 reports from older adults 60+ who were victimized by romance/confidence scams losing nearly $419 million. 

Con artists create fake online identities to construct an illusion of a romantic relationship to manipulate people.  Most target dating sites/apps and social media platforms and these scammers are skillful in forging a connection with potential victims. They may make plans to meet in person or even propose marriage but it will never happen. Eventually, they will ask for money or try to pressure you into an investment opportunity like virtual currency.

Tips for Avoiding Romance Scams

  • Protect yourself and older loved ones by raising awareness. Although this can be an uncomfortable topic, make sure you, your family and your friends are familiar with romance scams. The more you know, the better prepared you are to prevent being a victim.
  • Check in on older loved ones. Scammers are seeking to target those living alone or grieving the loss of a spouse, as they are more vulnerable.
  • Limit what you share online. Scammers can use details shared on social media and dating sites to better understand and target you.
  • Do your research. Research the individual’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the image, name or other details have been used elsewhere.
  • Go slowly and ask lots of questions. Don’t let the individual rush you to leave a dating service or social media site to communicate directly.
  • Listen to your gut. If the individual seems too good to be true, talk to someone you trust.
  • Don’t overshare personal information. Requests for inappropriate photos or financial information could later be used to extort you.
  • Be suspicious if you haven’t met in person. If the individual promises to meet in person, but consistently comes up with an excuse for canceling, be suspicious.
  • Don’t send money. Never send money to anyone you have only communicated with online or by phone.

You’ve Been Scammed, Now What?

  • Stop communicating with the individual immediately.
  • Talk to someone you trust and describe what’s going on.
  • Report the incident to local law enforcement.
  • Submit a fraud complaint with the Federal Trade Commission

Even if it’s too late to recoup losses, details may help others from becoming victims. Call the U.S. Department of Homeland Security at 1-866-347-2423 to report suspicious criminal activity, including possible romance scams, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year.