Romance scams cost $1.14 billion in 2021, expert warns of fraud

Cybercriminals are increasingly targeting individuals' wealth accounts through romance scams, a tactic that involves building a relationship and trust with the victim in order to gain access to their accounts or convince them to transfer money to the criminal. According to Tracy Kitten, the director of fraud and security at Javelin Strategy & Research, consumers lost $1.14 billion to romance scams in 2023, with median losses per person amounting to $2,000, the highest reported losses for any form of imposter scam.

Romance scammers often prey on emotions and use various emotional trigger points to manipulate their victims. They typically reach out and develop relationships over social media platforms, making it easier to deceive victims without face-to-face contact. Despite the prevalence of these scams, there are ways for individuals to detect if they are being targeted. Theresa Payton, CEO of cybersecurity firm Fortalice Solutions, emphasizes that requests for money are a major red flag in romance scams.

In addition to being cautious of unsolicited messages and requests for financial transactions, Payton suggests reverse-searching images, being mindful of privacy settings on social media, taking time to vet new contacts, avoiding financial transactions, and meeting in public places when meeting in person. Victims of romance scams can seek support and counseling through resources like The Cybercrime Support Network, which offers a free 10-week virtual romance scam recovery group led by licensed counselors.

By being vigilant and following these tips, individuals can protect themselves from falling victim to romance scams. It is important to report any suspicious profiles or messages to the online platform being used and to report incidents to the appropriate authorities, such as the Federal Trade Commission or the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Educating oneself on the tactics used by cybercriminals and seeking support if victimized can help prevent financial losses and emotional distress associated with romance scams.


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