Thanks to a new survey from the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics, total consumer spending is estimated at $18.2 billion for this Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day is notorious for being the most popular gift-giving occasion where money is spent on jewelry, chocolates, flowers, etc. An unexpected expenditure around this time of year, however, is due to something else entirely. Romance scams are conducted by skilled charmers who know what to say after warming up to unsuspecting victims so that they can fill their pockets.
Romance scammers can be commonly found on dating sites and social media – often sporting a fake profile with stolen pictures. These types of scammers can be charming, fitted with a story to tug at your heart strings. While the story can be moving, it will inevitably end in a request for money to cover costs such as medical bills for themselves or family members, travel expenses or personal debt.
It is not unusual for a scammer to build a deep relationship with their victim – sharing personal stories, showering with compliments or even sending pictures. This is most likely due to the fact that they have done it before and have been repeating the story.
Often romance scams will include a common trend when it comes to reasons why the scammer can’t meet face to face and requesting money. After combing through romance scams reported to BBB’s ScamTracker, these scam trends were the most common:
- The scammer claimed to be traveling or working overseas for business – they needed money to help get back to the U.S. or to help with businesses expenses.
- The scammer claimed they needed money to send their mother because she was diagnosed with cancer. The scammer asked the victim to open a bank account and deposit money. After they received the deposit, they blocked the victim and never replied back.
- The scammer requested money for travel expenses, claiming their own money was tied up. The scammer even provided false bank statements, claiming that they would wire back the money once they got home. The money was never returned.
- The scammer pretended to be a minor on social media and started up a conversation with a victim. After the scammer had been romantically denied, the victim then received a call from a “guardian” claiming they will pursue legal action unless the victim gives them cash or reimburses for therapy bills.
While not every relationship built online can turn to fraud, it is important to protect yourself from a scammer hiding behind a screen. To read more on how romance scams work and how you can spot them, visit bbb.org/romancescam.