A new study expects there to be an unprecedented rise in online romance scams this Valentine’s Day, with scammers praying on lonely and isolated people during the pandemic.
Americans lost $201 million to romance scams in 2019, more than any other type of scam. Virginia had the eighth most victims in the nation.
When the FTC releases the final totals for 2020, they are likely to increase in correlation with surging dating app usage due to more Americans turning online for human connection.
SocialCatfish.com released a study, Catfishing: A Growing Epidemic During COVID-19, using the most recent data from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. It also includes an exclusive seven-minute video interview with a Nigerian scammer, and a 20-page leaked playbook.
The study warns of 5 tactics scammers are using:
1. Cannot Meet Because of COVID: The hallmark of a catfish scammer is to come up with excuses of why they cannot meet, such as pretending to be in the military overseas. The pandemic gives them a built-in excuse not to meet. Be careful.
2. Will Not Video Chat: The oldest excuse in the book… they cannot video chat with you because their video camera is supposedly “broken”, or they do not have the best access to Wi-Fi. These are red flags.
3. They Ask You for Money: Once they form an emotional connection with lonely victims, they ask for money. During COVID-19, scammers have begun saying they are sick and need help with treatment, or are low on food, water, and other supplies.
4. Poor Grammar: If the person claims to be American but has terrible grammar, they may be a scammer.
5. Confesses Love Quickly: If you are stuck in your house with limited contact with your loved ones, then someone else’s sweet words can win you over. Scammers know that the sooner they win your trust, the sooner they can drain your bank account. Beware of someone who is moving too fast.
5 Ways to Avoid Becoming a Victim:
1. Never Give Money: Do not give anyone you meet online money, no matter the reason.
2. Meet or Video Chat: Do not form a relationship with someone who will not video chat with you or meet you in person.
3. Do Not Give Personal Information: Scammers can use basic information to commit identity fraud, get access to your banks and steal your money.
4. Conduct Thorough Background Checks: Do not take someone’s word for it. Use reverse look-up sites to verify information, images, email addresses, phone numbers and online profiles.
5. Take Things Slow: If you like someone online, do not let them rush you. Nigerian romance scammers will be pushy about falling in love right away. If that is the case, know something is not right.