LARAMIE – For Valentine’s Day 2023, CyberWyoming Alliance warns Wyomingites to beware of scammers taking advantage of their yearning for love and romance and is offering a free romance scams bookmark to those who bring awareness to the prevalence of online dating and romance scams.
The FTC reports that romance scams were responsible for the theft of $547 million from unwitting consumers in 2021. Romance scams are also the second highest type of cryptocurrency theft. Typically, these scams start with a fake bio (called catfishing) which uses false photos and careers. These careers are often stated as military or international business to explain why the scammer is unable to meet in person.
The Better Business Bureau did a study of online romance scams and concluded: “When the victims finally realize that they have been defrauded they often are emotionally devastated, not only due to the theft of money but to the betrayal of what they believed to be an ‘intimate’ or ‘true love’ relationship.”
In 2021, according to the FBI’s Internet Crimes Complaint Center, 55 Wyomingites were the victim of confidence fraud/romance scams losing over $1.7 million dollars. For all scams reported in Wyoming, there were a total of 735 victims losing over $10 million dollars.
“Romance scams truly affect our communities, our trust in our fellow man, and our local economies,” said Laura Baker, President of the CyberWyoming Alliance.
According to the FTC, more than a third of the people who lost money to a romance scam in 2021 reported that it started on social media. And the older the target, the more money the scammers get. The median individual loss from a romance scam over people over 70 was $9,000 in 2021 compared to $2,400 across all age groups.
The FTC provides these warning signs:
- Your new romantic interest sends you a picture that looks more like a model from a fashion magazine than an ordinary snapshot although some pictures that are used repeatedly by different scammers look like a librarian or truck driver. If you want to see the top pictures that scammers are using in 2023, check out Social Catfish.
- The person quickly wants to leave the dating website and communicate with you through email or instant messaging.
- They lavish you with attention. Swindlers often inundate prospective marks with texts, emails, and phone calls to draw them in.
- They repeatedly promise to meet in person but always come up with an excuse to cancel.
- They make a sudden request for money to deal with an emergency or make a sure-fire investment.
How to protect yourself and your loved ones? Make it a rule to never send money, including wire transfers, gift cards, or cryptocurrency, to anyone you haven’t met in person. If they offer to sell you a piece of clothing or memorabilia for an exorbitant price, don’t bite the hook. One woman, who thought she was having an on-line romance with a rock star, paid over $500 for his personal band t-shirt. It never arrived.
Companies in Wyoming are urged to use Valentine’s Day as a way to discuss online scams with their employees. A free toolkit can be downloaded at the National Cybersecurity Alliance’s website https://staysafeonline.org/resources/romance-scams-toolkit/ that includes tip sheets, social media graphics, an infographic and fake dating profiles. The National Cybersecurity Alliance also offers a free webinar at noon MT on Feb 14 discussing dating profiles and catfishing. Register here: https://staysafeonline.org/programs/data-privacy-week/true-love-or-candy-coated-con-identifying-romance-scams/
CyberWyoming Alliance is giving away free bookmarks reminding people that that romance scams are real. Simply write to firstname.lastname@example.org and provide your address (we won’t keep it).
- AARP article on romance scams and what to do if you’ve been scammed.
- Report a suspected online romance scam to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center and the FTC.
- The U.S. Army has a detailed fact sheet on spotting romance scammers posing as American soldiers posted abroad.
- FBI’s Internet Crimes Complaint Center Reports: https://www.ic3.gov/Home/AnnualReports
About the CyberWyoming Alliance
The CyberWyoming Alliance is a statewide, 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Laramie whose mission is to increase cybersecurity awareness, education, and outreach in communities across the State of Wyoming. Information can be found at www.cyberwyoming.org/alliance or email@example.com.