(CBS DETROIT) – We will soon be entering the season of love, Valentine’s Day. However, while some people are looking for love, others are looking to get paid by carrying out romance scams.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), romance scammers create fake profiles on dating sites and apps or contact you through popular social media sites like Instagram or Facebook. The scammers strike up a relationship with you to build up trust, sometimes talking or chatting several times a day. Then, they make up a story and ask for money.
They pretend to like you and are looking for love or romance, but their end goal is money. And it does not only happen on social media or dating apps.
“In 2022, nearly 70,000 people reported a romance scam, reported losses hit a whopping $1.3 billion. The average reported loss was more than $4,000,” according to the FTC.
According to a study from the online investigative service Social Catfish, Michigan ranks No. 11 on its list of states where people lost money to romance scams, for a total of $17 million lost in 2022.
CBS News Detroit spoke with Genevieve Gresset, vice president of communications for The Match Making Company, about what signs to look out for.
“Some of them are pretty obvious, and it’s only when you look back if you have been scammed do you realize how obvious these things are,” said Gresset. “One is the reluctance to actually tell you about themselves because they don’t want to tell you too much. They have very farfetched stories. There are inconsistencies in their stories and sudden emergencies. There is a reluctance to meet up. They are always too busy. They could be working abroad. They are not available. So they won’t call you, and they won’t video chat either. And they certainly won’t meet up with you.”
According to the FTC, 40% of people who said they lost money to a romance scam in 2022 said the contact started on social media.
When people post updates like they are looking for love or want to be married, they can open themselves up to be a target.
“Look at yourself as if to say ‘What here is giving someone some clues to my financial status as to perhaps some vulnerability if I am always talking about perhaps a horrible divorce I have gone through,”‘ said Gresset.
Sometimes, you may be sharing information to make you a target of a romance scam and not even know it, like having pictures of your children online. Some romance scammers target parents during tax season for their refunds.
“They are looking for the people who are talking about that. They are waiting to have the lump sum coming in, and if you are talking about it openly, you are going to be scammed. You are going to have people knocking on your door literally to try and befriend you, to try and tell you how wonderful you are.,” said Gresset. “So you have to be very, very mindful and cautious about who comes into your life around that period.”
The FTC says some of the things could be a red flag for romance scammers:
- Nobody will ever ask you to help or insist that you invest by sending cryptocurrency, giving the numbers on a gift card, or wiring money. Anyone who does is a scammer.
- Try a reverse image search of profile pictures. If the details don’t match up, it’s a scam.
- Talk to friends or family about a new love interest and pay attention if they’re concerned.