The romance scam has been around for decades. As more of our lives have moved online, the FBI has seen more of these scams reported. With social distancing in place, some people worry these scams are on the rise.
"Unfortunately, we've seen scams just skyrocket," said Eva Velasquez of the Identity Theft Resource Center. "Sometimes when you allow your emotions to step in and make decisions instead of the logical part of your brain, it creates that vulnerability."
The FBI says these type of scams can start on dating apps or social media platforms and can be emotionally and financially devastating.
"There's more embarrassment and shame with these victims," said Velasquez. "No one should be embarrassed or ashamed if they have ben lied to. That is not their fault."
In 2019, nearly 20,000 romance scams were reported to the FBI, around 1,000 more than in 2018.
"It is particularly traumatic for the victims because not only have they lost money and time, they may have developed a relationship with this person and are also grieving the loss of that relationship," said Velasquez.
There are several red flags that you should look out for.
"In a very short time they start to ask you for things of value," said Velasquez. "If someone you barely know, you haven't met yet, starts asking you for money goods or services, gift cards, even a plane ticket."
The FBI also recommends following these steps to protect yourself:
- Research the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the material has been used elsewhere.
- Go slow and ask questions.
- Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or social media site to go “offline.”
- Beware if the individual attempts to isolate you from friends and family or requests.
- Beware if the individual promises to meet in person, but then always comes up with an excuse why he or she can’t. If you haven’t met the person after a few months, for whatever reason, you have good reason to be suspicious.
- Never send money to anyone you don’t know personally.
"You have no guarantee the person you're talking to is as they are represented online," said Velasquez. "They will use whatever tool or means they can to get you to reply and respond."