Even as the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic has ebbed and flowed over the past two years, romance scams have been consistently on the rise.
In this form of online fraud, scammers lure in victims with fake profiles on dating apps or social-media platforms. What starts out as innocent friendship quickly escalates into professions of love and a false sense of intimacy.
From there, the crux of a romance scam becomes a request for money. Under the cover of love, scammers say they urgently need funds for travel expenses, medical bills and various debts.
They often ask for money in the form of gift cards or wire transfers, which are impossible to dispute or recover. Cryptocurrency is also a form of romance scam payment.
The key to success for romance scams is the fact that you’ll never meet your online love interest face-to-face. Scammers come up with all kinds of excuses for why they can’t connect in person: they’re working on an offshore oil rig, or they’re deployed abroad for military service, or they’re quarantining or maintaining social distance due to COVID-19.
Whereas the first couple of reasons given may raise suspicious eyebrows, the pandemic has given fraudsters more plausible excuses for keeping their relationships strictly online.
The Federal Trade Commission received reports of $304 million in losses due to romance scams in 2020 — a 50% increase over the previous year — affecting victims of all ages. More than a third of those who lost money to this type…