Online romance scams can cost you

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has released a new article warning users of online romance scams designed to dupe you out of your money. The scammers often gain the confidence of their victims and then trick them into sending them gift cards or money for family emergencies or trips to come visit, but never happen.

“Last year, people reported losing $143 million to romance scams – a higher total than for any other type of scam reported to the FTC,” Lisa Weintraub Schifferle of the FTC said.

The scammers typically use social media or online dating applications to connect to their victims. They will often upload fake photos of good looking people and even steal other user’s identities.

FTC said the median losses from the scams were $2,600.

The FTC provided some good tips to safeguard against online romance scams:

  • Never send money or gifts to a sweetheart you haven’t met in person.
  • Take it slowly. Ask questions and look for inconsistent answers. Check the person’s photo using your search engine’s “search by image” feature. If the same picture shows up with a different name, that’s a red flag.
  • Talk to someone about this new love interest. And pay attention if your friends or family are concerned.
  • If you suspect a romance scam, cut off contact right away. Then, report to the scam to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint. Notify the dating site where you met the scammer, too.

So, be cautious the next time you are approached by your next potential sweetheart online.