Americans lost $201 million in online romance scams last year. Here's how to avoid the con artists

Online romance scams are growing at a dizzying pace, raking in millions of dollars...

Posted: Feb 14, 2020 11:56 AM

Online romance scams are growing at a dizzying pace, raking in millions of dollars from unsuspecting victims across the United States.

Some of the scams drag on for months or years, and leave the victims crushed emotionally and financially. Just this week, federal officials announced that Americans lost $201 million to online romance scams last year -- nearly a 40% jump since 2018.

Here's how to avoid getting your heart and money stolen:

They claim to be in these professions

Romance scammers start off with fake profiles using someone else's identity. Their alleged location is never in your city -- they claim to be deployed in the military, working at an oil rig overseas or a doctor embedded with international groups, the Federal Trade Commission says. That way, they can ask for money to pay for seemingly legitimate costs such as travel visas, plane tickets and hospital bills.

They insist on anonymous money transfers

When asking for money, romance scammers rarely use regular money transfer process such as a checking account. They opt for gift cards so they can turn them into cash. "Gift cards are for gifts, not payments. Anyone who demands payment by gift card is always a scammer," the Federal Trade Commission said.

After they get the gift card number and its PIN, they can immediately retrieve the money loaded on it and the process is difficult to reverse. "Once they've done that, the scammers and your money are gone, usually without a trace," the FTC says. "Here's the thing: Never send money or gifts to a love interest you haven't actually met. It's a romance scam."

They move fast on the relationship

Romance scammers don't always start on dating apps. Others start on social media, with Facebook messenger especially popular, the FTC says.

It warns people to be wary of any online relationship in which the person wants to leave the dating site immediately and use personal messaging, the person is fast to claim love or the person asks for money without meeting face-to-face.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 710607

Reported Deaths: 13248
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion968581722
Lake51908949
Allen39337672
Hamilton34643406
St. Joseph34306543
Elkhart27477432
Vanderburgh22099394
Tippecanoe21927213
Porter17987301
Johnson17571374
Hendricks16854310
Clark12715190
Madison12367337
Vigo12240244
Monroe11510166
LaPorte11204204
Delaware10382184
Howard9698211
Kosciusko9165114
Hancock8014139
Bartholomew7913155
Warrick7702155
Floyd7568176
Wayne6917198
Grant6855171
Boone6568100
Morgan6414138
Dubois6091117
Marshall5801109
Dearborn571276
Cass5698104
Henry5588101
Noble543683
Jackson494172
Shelby481395
Lawrence4349118
Gibson429589
Harrison429171
Clinton420953
Montgomery418986
DeKalb413284
Whitley382239
Huntington379780
Miami373365
Knox367189
Steuben367157
Putnam353460
Jasper352546
Wabash348178
Adams338253
Ripley335469
Jefferson318080
White308854
Daviess289999
Wells286881
Decatur279592
Fayette277362
Greene271085
Posey269533
Scott261553
Clay255445
LaGrange255470
Randolph236080
Washington231631
Spencer228131
Jennings225448
Fountain209345
Sullivan208042
Starke206252
Owen192756
Fulton192140
Jay186429
Carroll186120
Perry181436
Orange178353
Rush170824
Vermillion166343
Franklin166035
Tipton161543
Parke144616
Blackford133931
Pike130734
Pulaski114345
Newton104234
Brown100740
Crawford97914
Benton97413
Martin83115
Warren80215
Switzerland7698
Union70110
Ohio56011
Unassigned0408

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1058395

Reported Deaths: 19033
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1229981360
Cuyahoga1080042072
Hamilton785031170
Montgomery50326998
Summit45710915
Lucas40568768
Butler37858572
Stark31586896
Lorain24333473
Warren23964293
Mahoning21029584
Lake20143365
Clermont19480229
Delaware18162130
Licking16185207
Fairfield15796197
Trumbull15666461
Medina14961259
Greene14765236
Clark13697293
Wood12828185
Portage12481196
Allen11374229
Richland11102198
Miami10568214
Muskingum8729127
Wayne8619209
Columbiana8589226
Pickaway8454121
Marion8409135
Tuscarawas8393240
Erie7644154
Hancock6746124
Ross6727146
Ashtabula6563166
Geauga6563146
Scioto6314101
Belmont5657159
Union560247
Lawrence5483102
Jefferson5372149
Huron5333114
Darke5285121
Sandusky5208120
Seneca5163120
Washington5095108
Athens509256
Auglaize477683
Mercer473785
Shelby458092
Knox4418108
Madison426559
Putnam423199
Ashland414488
Fulton411667
Defiance405596
Crawford3894102
Brown387755
Logan375176
Preble372498
Clinton364060
Ottawa359578
Highland348460
Williams330074
Champaign322357
Jackson309351
Guernsey308749
Perry290949
Fayette278448
Morrow277239
Hardin265964
Henry265066
Coshocton261058
Holmes255199
Van Wert239863
Pike234231
Gallia233346
Adams230252
Wyandot228354
Hocking210759
Carroll189747
Paulding169239
Meigs141738
Noble133037
Monroe129041
Morgan107723
Harrison105936
Vinton81614
Unassigned02
Fort Wayne
Partly Cloudy
36° wxIcon
Hi: 51° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 30°
Angola
Partly Cloudy
34° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 34°
Huntington
Partly Cloudy
42° wxIcon
Hi: 51° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 39°
Fort Wayne
Clear
36° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 30°
Lima
Partly Cloudy
40° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 35°
Patchy frost is expected Thursday night and near seasonable highs are on the way for Friday afternoon.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events