Attorney General Chris Carr is warning Georgians to beware of romance scams on social media and online dating sites:
“Criminals continue to prey on people’s emotions by taking advantage of those who turn to online platforms in an attempt to foster new connections,” said Carr. “As we have seen, increased social isolation brought on by the pandemic has led to more instances of romance scams. On Valentine’s Day and all year round, we are reminding all Georgians to be cautious with what they share online and to never send money or gifts to someone they have not met in person.”
In 2020, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received 32,792 reports of romance scams, with total losses in excess of $304 million and a median loss per victim of $2,500.
In a typical romance scam, fraudsters create fake profiles on dating sites and apps, or contact their targets through social media sites, such as Facebook or Instagram. They sound almost too good to be true and profess their love early on, despite never having met you. They often claim to be traveling, in the military, or living or working abroad to explain why they are unable to meet in person. Once the scammers have your romantic interest and your trust, they tell you they urgently need you to send them money—perhaps for medical expenses, to pay for a visa, or for a plane ticket—and ask you to send it via wire transfer or gift cards. These methods of sending money are very difficult to trace, so it’s nearly impossible for you to get your money back once it’s sent. Sometimes romance scammers disappear as soon as your money does, but some may continue to try to get a victim to send them more money over the course of many months.
In other cases, romance scammers ask the victim to open a bank account and transfer money to another account or use the money to re-ship goods they send you. The victims don’t realize that they are actually helping a criminal to launder money obtained illegally.
Tips to avoid romance scams:
- Be suspicious if an online romance is getting very serious but the person is never able to meet face-to-face.
- Do a reverse image search of the person’s profile picture. This may reveal that the picture is really of someone else or that it has been used for multiple online identities.
- Never send money to someone you haven’t met in person.
- Never agree to open a bank account for someone, transfer money, or re-ship goods they send you.
- Never share your financial information or Social Security information with someone whose identity you have not verified.
- Stick to the dating app for your communications and avoid giving out your phone number or email address.
- Make your social media profiles more secure by limiting who can see your profile and being selective about what personal details you share. This will make it more difficult for a scammer to target you.
- Scammers are good at creating well-worded fake profiles, so it’s important to go slowly when meeting someone new and to ask a lot of questions.
- Talk to someone you trust if something seems “off” or unusual. That person may have a clearer perspective since they are not emotionally involved.
If you believe you are the victim of a romance scam:
- Immediately cut off communication.
- Contact your bank, credit card issuer, or gift card issuer to see if you can get your money back.
- Notify the online dating company or social media platform.
- File a complaint with the FTC by visiting ftc.gov/complaint.
- Notify the FBI at ic3.gov.