SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Love can be a beautiful thing and scammers know this so they are on the prowl to break your heart and your wallets.
Officials with Utah Public Safety are asking the public to beware of the dangers of romance scams. They say knowing some of the common signs of romance scams can help protect both your heart and your wallet.
Millions of people are turning to online dating apps or social networking sites to meet someone, but instead of finding romance, the Federal Trade Commission says many find a scammer trying to trick them into sending money.
The FTC says people reported losing $201 million to romance scams in 2019. They added that people reported losing more money to romance scams in the past two years than to any other fraud reported.
Romance Scammers are said to create fake profiles on dating sites and apps or contact their targets through popular social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, or Google Hangouts.
The scammers reportedly strike up a relationship with their targets to build their trust, sometimes talking or chatting several times a day. They then make up a story and ask for money.
Here are some for the lies the scammer tells according to the FTC:
- They’ll often say they’re living or traveling outside of the United States. We’ve heard about scammers who say they are:
- working on an oil rig
- in the military
- a doctor with an international organization
2. Scammers ask their targets for money to:
- pay for a plane ticket or other travel expenses
- pay for surgery or other medical expenses
- pay customs fees to retrieve something
- pay off gambling debts
- pay for a visa or other official travel documents
3. Scammers ask people to pay through specific means:
- by wiring money
- with reload cards like MoneyPak or gift cards from vendors like Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, or Steam
- They can get cash quickly and remain anonymous. They also know the transactions are almost impossible to reverse.
How to Avoid Losing Money to a Romance Scammer
The FTC emphasizes “never send money or gifts to a sweetheart you haven’t met in person.”
If you suspect a romance scam here are a few tips on how to protect yourself:
- Stop communicating with the person immediately.
- Talk to someone you trust, and pay attention if your friends or family say they’re concerned about your new love interest.
- Do a search for the type of job the person has to see if other people have heard similar stories. For example, you could do a search for “oil rig scammer” or “US Army scammer.”
- Do a reverse image search of the persons’ profile picture to see if it’s associated with another name or with details that don’t match up – those are signs of a scam.
If you think it’s a scam, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint. Notify the website or app where you met the scammer, too.
If you paid a romance scammer with a gift card, contact the company that issued the card right away. Tell them you paid a scammer with the gift card and ask if they can refund your money.
Click here to learn more about romance scams.
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