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With Proposal Day behind us in March and Lover’s Day coming up on April 23, 2020, it’s a good time to discuss a growing and alarming trend, romance scams. You may be asking yourself, “Well, isn’t romance supposed to be a good, happy occurrence?” Of course, however, knowing that you’re in an actual relationship with a trustworthy partner is essential in today’s cyber-dating world. Unfortunately, there are those cybercriminals who are actively preying on the vulnerabilities of both men and women who are looking for love.

What is a Romance Scam?

A Romance Scam is defined as a confidence ploy used to lure people into a fictitious online relationship. The criminals often use popular dating apps and social media platforms, like Facebook or Instagram, to scout for their victims. Once they quickly build trust with their victim, they ask him or her for funds to be wired or mailed to them for fictitious emergencies. Another popular method of deception is asking the man or woman they’re supposedly dating to wire money so they can afford to travel and come to meet in person. The criminal will often lie about why they can’t travel to meet in person. Of course, the victim thinks they’re truly in a romance and is happy to help their new-found boyfriend or girlfriend in their time of need. The scammer will find reasons to continue to request money or gift cards until the victim either runs out of money or becomes aware of his or her scam.

Unfortunately, romance scams are growing at an alarming rate. Victims reported losing $201 million to romance scams in 2019 alone. In fact, more people reported losing more money to romance scams in the past two years than to any other fraud reported, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). These online criminals often communicate regularly with their victims and pose as workers in various professions, including doctors with international organizations, construction workers, offshore on oil rigs, or other professions that require work outside of the country.

If you think the person you’ve met online sounds too good to be true, then you may want to do your research. Search for the person or the person’s photo to see if you find him or her on other online platforms.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help you discover if your online love interest is a potential scammer:

  1. Has he or she asked you for money, to transfer or wire funds, or supply gift cards?
  2. Is your new, online romance a long-distance romance or is he or she working outside of the country?
  3. Can your online romance partner never meet in person?

Remember, these are ruthless professionals who spend their days tricking people into believing them and their stories. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed if you think you’ve been a victim or a target—it’s not your fault!

If you feel you’ve been a victim of romance scam:
* Contact First Bank by calling the First Bank Service Center at 1-800-760-2265.
* Report the fake profile to the online dating site or the social media platform.
* Report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at ftc.gov/complaint.
* Contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation at ic3.gov.