Love, Not Money
by Jim Kreidler, Consumer Education Specialist, Division of Consumer and Business Education
Chocolates, flowers, and spending time with your special someone are all Valentine’s Day traditions, but what about helping a friend or loved one spot and avoid a romance scam?
Even though a romance scam might not be affecting you, someone you know might be facing one. According to a new FTC report, people sent $547 million to online romance scammers last year. And more than a third of those who lost money said the contact started on Facebook or Instagram, often through an unexpected private message.
So pick up the phone and reach out to someone you might not have spoken with in a while. Check in with them, see how they’re doing, and listen to what they say. You might just be able to help them spot and avoid a romance scam.
As you start a conversation, here are some things to keep in mind:
- If a friend or loved one mentions an online love interest, ask if they’ve met in person.
- If they haven’t met in person, but that love interest has asked for money, that’s a scam. Period. No matter what story they tell — even if they send you money or gifts first.
- Romance scammers often create fake profiles. Use a reverse image search to see if someone else has used that profile picture, or if the details don’t match up.
- Never send or forward money to people you meet online. And only scammers ask you to pay by cryptocurrency, gift cards, or wire transfer.