For millions of Americans starting a new relationship means initiating contact on the internet via dating sites, social networking sites and chat rooms to meet people. Many Americans attest to the successful relationships they have forged through these platforms. But scammers also use these sites to attract potential victims. They create dubious profiles to build online relationships, and eventually persuade people to send money — all in the name of love.
Word to the wise: sometimes it’s best to lead with your head and not your heart, warns the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC receives thousands of reports each year about romance scammers who pledge enduring devotion only to steal their victims’ money.
Unfortunately, an online love interest who asks for money is almost certainly a scam artist. Victims lost $220 million to fraudsters in 2016, according to the FTC. At the same time, the number of romance scams reported to the FBI has tripled in the last five years.
The FTC’s new infographic, at right, developed with the American Bankers Association Foundation, lists common signs of online dating scams and what to do if someone you meet online asks you for money.
Victims are often embarrassed to talk about their experiences — but you can help — sharing your bad experience can make a difference in someone else’s life. Keep in mind that scammers are counting on your embarrassed silence to conceal their deceit so they can continue to trick innocent victims.
You can report cases of fraud to the FTC: ftc.gov/complaint.
Learn about the IC3—and use it if you’re ever a victim. The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is a reliable and convenient reporting tool to submit complaints about internet crime and scams to the FBI. The IC3 uses the information from complaints to refer cases to the appropriate law enforcement agencies and to identify trends. The IC3 has received nearly 4 million complaints since it was created in 2000. Anyone who is a victim of an internet-enabled crime, such as an online romance scam, should file a complaint with IC3 to help the FBI stop hackers and other cyber criminals. Learn more about the lifecycle of a complaint submitted to the IC3.