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Financial Friday: Romance scams hit record $547 million

Warning Signs of a Romance Scam
WAFF's Haley Baker reporting
Published: Feb. 18, 2022 at 1:18 PM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Millions of people utilize online dating apps or social networking platforms to meet someone. Online dating can be a great way to find lasting love, but it also comes with risks. But instead of finding romance, many find a scammer trying to trick them into sending money and stealing their information.

A record-setting $547 million was reported lost to these scams in 2021. There were about 56,000 reports filed last year and dollar losses were up among victims from every age bracket

Scammers use social engineering to quickly gain your trust.

WAFF spoke to Ashish Baria, the Senior Assistant Vice President for Information Security at Redstone Federal Credit Union. He says these are some red flags to watch out for:

  • Working Offshore: They often say they are from the U.S. and currently working in a different country. They use excuses such as: working on an oil rig, working as a doctor with an international organization, or being deployed on a military mission.
  • Communicate Offline: They may ask you to quickly leave the dating site and communicate directly with them via chat or email platforms.
  • Will Ask For Money: If your online interest asks you for money, step back and walk away. They will use excuses such as: paying for an emergency medical procedure, needing to fix a car, paying customs fees, paying for visa or travel documents, or even a plane ticket to visit you.
  • Payment Method: The scammer will usually ask you to pay via wire transfers, reloadable gift cards, or Amazon and iTunes gift cards. They use these methods because they are difficult to trace. Sometimes they may ask you for your bank information to deposit money, so they can use your account to carry out other scams.
  • Meet in Person: They will make plans to meet in person, however will always come up with a last-minute excuse and cancel the meeting.

Actions Items: (things to do if you suspect this is happening to you)

  • Stop communicating with the person immediately and talk to someone you trust.
  • Do some online research, look up the person, and see if that name or job has been used before in another scam, use Google “search by image” to scan the person’s picture.
  • Contact your financial institution immediately if you believe you have paid a scammer.
  • If it’s too late for this, and you’ve already become a victim of a romance scam, file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. You can file a report at: https://www.ic3.gov/
  • You also need to contact your financial institution immediately.

For more ways to save, be sure to tune in at noon every Friday for WAFF 48′s “Financial Friday” segment.

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