Nearly 70,000 people reported being targeted in romance scams. Here’s how to avoid them

Feb 13, 2024, 3:47 PM | Updated: Feb 14, 2024, 6:16 am

SALT LAKE CITY — It’s almost Valentine’s Day, love is in the air and so are romance scams. According to the Federal Trade Commission, nearly 70,000 people reported being targeted in a romance scam in 2022 with losses totaling $1.3 billion.

KSL TV spoke with Rob Woellhaf, Mountain American Credit Union’s vice president of fraud management, about how to avoid these scams and financial loss.

Common signs of romance scams

Woellhaf explained that scammers will often use online profiles on dating apps or social media platforms to find a victim and lure them into a relationship. The profiles they create are generally fake and use fake images, names, and ages.

They often try to move the relationship along quickly by professing their love early on and showering victims with flattering compliments. Scammers will also frequently buy gifts.

The online scammers will avoid meeting in person and often use excuses of working abroad or serving in the military to explain why they can’t meet.

Preventing fraud

Never agree to receive money from someone and then send it somewhere else, no matter the reason. For example, if you allegedly received money from your deployed fiancé’s commanding officer and you are asked to send the money somewhere else for any reason, it is fraud.

Be wary of someone who asks you to keep your relationship with them a secret. Be even more wary if you are asked to keep a financial transaction a secret or to mislead a cashier, teller, or other financial representative.

Never send money or gifts to someone you haven’t met in person. Be cautious of anyone who requests money – scammers will often ask for money for an alleged emergency or to travel to meet you.

Be wary of anyone who asks you to communicate outside of the dating app or social media site. Scammers often try to move their victims off dating apps or social media sites to avoid detection.

Do a reverse image search on their profile picture to see if it’s been used elsewhere online. Do a background check on your online romantic interest. This can help you verify their identity and ensure they are who they say they are.

If you believe you’re being scammed, you should stop communicating with the person immediately in any form. If you’ve been communicating on a dating app or social media site, report the account through the site.

If you have already sent money to the scammer, you should contact your bank or credit card company and report the fraud.

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Nearly 70,000 people reported being targeted in romance scams. Here’s how to avoid them