FTC seeing increasing number of romance scams

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Posted at 3:56 PM, Feb 12, 2021

NORFOLK, Va. - Something to watch out for with Valentine's Day right around the corner - romance scams.

With the rise of dating apps, romance scams have gotten worse over the years. The number of romance scams reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has nearly tripled since 2015.

It was the costliest scam reported to the FTC in 2019, and costs are expected to be even higher in 2020 because of the pandemic.

"People are alone, people are in their homes, people are looking for ways to connect, and unfortunately criminals will leverage that. They'll actually capitalize on it," said Stacey Nash, Senior Vice President, Bank Fraud Management and Central Operations with USAA.

Nash says scammers will play on your emotions to get money out of you.

"Typically what happens in the romance scam, kind of the M.O., is to build a relationship, build trust, and typically right before you're supposed to go and live happily ever after, there's a request for money," said Nash.

They may give you any number of reasons, such as claiming to take care of a sick family member.

Nash says an urgent need for money coming from someone you've never actually met should be a huge red flag.

Something to be mindful of in Hampton Roads as well, scammers may pretend to be in the military and claim to be deployed to explain why they can't meet.

If you believe you're being scammed, alert your bank and the FTC.

"Be vigilant and if you have any questions or any concerns or anything doesn't feel right, contact your bank right away," said Nash. "I know I speak on behalf of all my peers at all the banks - we're all in this together, and we want to do whatever we can to prevent it from happening."