first_img Nothing says “Happy Valentine’s Day” like $143 million wasted on romance scams.The Federal Trade Commission this week revealed that lovey-dovey shakedowns account for more monetary losses than any other consumer fraud type.Last year, the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network received 21,000-plus reports about romance scams—more than double the number filed in 2015 (8,500).Total dollar losses have also been increasing, rising steadily from $33 million four years ago to a whopping $143 million in 2018.In the age of social media and online dating apps, it’s easy for romance scammers to bait their prey. All it takes is a phony profile, some kind words and false promises, and a deep-seated malevolence.“Once these fraudsters have people by the heartstrings, they say they need money, often for a medical emergency or some other misfortune,” the FTC explained. “They often claim to be in the military and stationed abroad, which explains why they can’t meet in person.“Pretending to need help with travel costs for a long-awaited visit is another common ruse,” the agency said.Romance scams rank No. 1 on total reported losses in 2018 (via Federal Trade Commission)And because there are no date nights or get-aways to tie them up, con artists can reap large rewards for minimal effort courting their targets—often older, unsuspecting marks.Folks aged 40 to 69 cashed out at the highest rates—more than twice that of people in their 20s (who, let’s face it, probably don’t have as much disposable income to give away).But it is those victims aged 70 or older who squandered the most money: an average $10,000 each, well above the median individual loss of $2,600.Based on these stats, and seven seasons of Catfish: The TV Show, it’s clear that people across the country (and the world) can be easily lured into a trap. So how do you stay safe while online dating?The Federal Trade Commission offers some tips to “help spot bogus suitors”:Never send money or gifts to a sweetheart you haven’t met in person.Talk to someone you trust about this new love interest; in the excitement of a new relationship, we can be blinded to things that don’t add up. Pay attention if your friends or family are concerned.Take it slow: Ask questions and look for inconsistent answers. Try a reverse-image search of profile pictures; if they’re associated with another name or details that don’t match, it’s a scam.Also, be sure to report suspicious profiles or messages to the dating or social media site, and tell the FTC.More on Geek.com:Is That Netflix Email Legit? FTC Warns of Phishing ScamBitcoin Bomb Threat Scam Disrupts Businesses Across US, CanadaCouple, Homeless Man Allegedly Made Up Story to Scam GoFundMe DonationsGeek’s Guide to Online Dating Feds Bust Hundreds of Email Scammers WorldwideFall For the Viral Instagram Hoax? So Did Lots of Celebs Stay on targetlast_img

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