clearn.png
Friday March 22nd, 2019 4:56AM

Is it love? Maybe not, as romance scams proliferate

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

Is it love? Maybe not.

The FTC announced this week that romance-related scams have surged recently and generated more losses than any other consumer fraud reported to the agency last year. The number of these romance scams reported to the agency jumped from 8,500 in 2015 to more than 21,000 in 2018. And the amount lost by victims has quadrupled over that period — reaching $143 million last year. The median reported loss for victims was $2,600, about seven times more than other fraud tracked by the FTC.

Romance scams vary but criminals typically find their victims online, though a dating site or social media. Scammers create a phony profile, often building a believable persona with the help of a photo of someone else and direct communication. They woo the victim, building affection and trust until they see an opportunity to ask for money.

The reason for the request can run the gamut but money to pay for a medical emergency or travel costs for a long-awaited visit are common. Some victims report sending money repeatedly for one false crisis after another, according to the FTC. The money is often wired or given as gift cards, which allow the criminals quick and anonymous access to cash that cannot be easily tracked.

Anyone can be a victim, experts warn. But FTC data found reported romance scams happened most often to those in the 40 to 69 age group. Those 70 and older paid out the most to scammers, with median losses per person of $10,000.

"It can happen to you. Whatever you think, whatever you believe, you could be a victim," said Alan Brill, senior managing director of the cyber risk practice at Kroll, a risk management company.

The criminals are "masters of manipulating human emotion" and are targeting victims when their defenses are down, Brill said.

While romance-related scams have been around for ages, they've become more common and successful as people spend more time socializing and finding dates online.

It's become so common that the AARP recently launched an educational campaign that urges consumers to recognize the warning signs of a fraudster. These include: professing love too quickly, reluctance to meet in person, requests for money and photos that look more professional than an ordinary snapshot. Other warning signs include your suitor pressing you to leave the dating website or other forum to communicate via email or instant messaging.

Romantic scams have an emotional and financial toll. But criminals may seek more — sometimes asking for personal information that can facilitate identity theft. This may be done under the guise they need a birthdate, Social Security number or bank information to help complete a Visa application, travel information or other lie.

If you are a victim, don't be too embarrassed to report the crime. And if you believe a friend or family member may be falling for a fraudster, speak up.

"You are not the first or last to fall for this," Brill said. "It's happening a lot ... be willing to admit to yourself that it happened and then report it to law enforcement." Reports should be made to the FBI's Internet Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov or call your local FBI office. You can also file a complaint with the FTC at www.ftc.gov/complaint.

Reporting will help law enforcement track down criminals and sometimes help victims move on with their lives.

"You have to remember the scammers are out there and they are very good at what they do," Brill said. He urges people to think critically about what is being told to and asked of them. "The person responsible for your cybersecurity comes down to you."

___

Follow Sarah Skidmore Sell on Twitter @sarahssell

If you have personal finance questions, email the Associated Press at apmoney@ap.org

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Business, AP Business - Consumer News, AP Business - Corporate News, AP Business - Personal Finance
© Copyright 2019 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
US says ex-intel official defected to Iran, revealed secrets
A former U.S. Air Force counterintelligence specialist who defected to Iran has been charged with revealing classified information to the Tehran government, including the code name and secret mission of a Pentagon program
3:47PM ( 6 minutes ago )
Democrats question pledges in $26.5B T-Mobile-Sprint deal
Democratic lawmakers challenged top executives of T-Mobile and Sprint over their pledge not to raise prices for wireless services or hurt competition if their $26.5 billion merger goes through.
3:46PM ( 6 minutes ago )
NASA rover finally bites the dust on Mars after 15 years
Opportunity Lost: NASA rover finally bites the dust on Mars after an unexpected 15 years
3:33PM ( 20 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Ex-Vatican prelate convicted of corruption in smuggling case
Italian news agency ANSA says a monsignor who had worked years as a Vatican accountant has been convicted of corruption in connection with a failed cash-smuggling plot
2:52PM ( 1 hour ago )
Prada creates diversity council after blackface outrage
Prada announces formation of diversity council chaired by artist Theaster Gates and film director Ava DuVernay after withdrawing bag charms seen as blackface
2:27PM ( 1 hour ago )
US budget deficit running 41.8 percent above last year
US budget deficit 41.8 percent higher than last year as revenues flat while spending up
2:22PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Business
The Latest: Warren brings her populist message to campaign
Warren brings her populist message to the 2020 campaign with her official entry
6:39AM ( 3 days ago )
Warren makes presidential bid official with call for change
Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren makes bid for the presidency official, grounding her 2020 campaign in a populist call to fight economic inequality and build "an America that works for everyone."
12:48AM ( 3 days ago )
The Latest: 2020 rival defends Warren against Trump attack
One of Warren's rivals in the Democratic race for president is coming to her defense in the face of attacks by Trump's re-election campaign
1:35PM ( 4 days ago )
AP Business - Consumer News
Optimism over US-China trade talks boosts stocks again
U.S. stocks are extending their gains in afternoon trading as investors remain optimistic that Washington and Beijing will make progress in resolving their costly trade dispute
1:14PM ( 2 hours ago )
Global stocks rise on optimism over US-China trade talks
Global stocks rise for the second day in a row as investors remain optimistic that the U.S. and China will make progress in resolving their trade dispute.
11:56AM ( 3 hours ago )
The Latest: Democrats question T-Mobile-Sprint merger deal
Democratic lawmakers are challenging a pledge by T-Mobile and Sprint not to raise prices or hurt competition if their $26.5 billion merger goes through.
11:07AM ( 4 hours ago )
AP Business - Corporate News
Families to quietly remember on school massacre anniversary
The communities and families terrorized by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre will spend the anniversary quietly remembering the 14 students and three staff members who lost their lives.
12:26PM ( 3 hours ago )
NY Fed: Auto loan delinquencies at highest point since 2010
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York says borrowers are behind in their auto loan payments in numbers not seen since delinquencies peaked at the end of 2010
6:27PM ( 21 hours ago )
IRS watchdog: Shutdown caused 'shocking' drop in phone help
IRS watchdog: Government shutdown caused a 'shocking' decline in telephone help for taxpayers
11:37AM ( 1 day ago )
AP Business - Personal Finance
US says ex-intel official defected to Iran, revealed secrets
A former U.S. Air Force counterintelligence specialist who defected to Iran has been charged with revealing classified information to the Tehran government, including the code name and secret mission of a Pentagon program
3:47PM ( 6 minutes ago )
Democrats question pledges in $26.5B T-Mobile-Sprint deal
Democratic lawmakers challenged top executives of T-Mobile and Sprint over their pledge not to raise prices for wireless services or hurt competition if their $26.5 billion merger goes through.
3:46PM ( 7 minutes ago )
NASA rover finally bites the dust on Mars after 15 years
Opportunity Lost: NASA rover finally bites the dust on Mars after an unexpected 15 years
3:33PM ( 20 minutes ago )
Absent Iran takes center stage at Mideast talks in Poland
Absent from the stage, Iran is nonetheless taking the spotlight at a Middle East security conference co-hosted by the United States and Poland that has highlighted deep divisions between the U.S. and some of its traditional allies
3:29PM ( 24 minutes ago )
The Latest: Johnson hopes to run Boston Marathon in 3 hours
Jimmie Johnson has a lofty goal for the Boston Marathon: completing the grueling, 26.2-mile course in less than three hours
3:25PM ( 28 minutes ago )