According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), in 2018 people reported losing a total of $143 million to romance scams. Eve Berton, Manager, Business Development, Corporate Investigative Services, Rehmann, notes older women are especially targeted and at risk.
"Scammers look for their targets on social media, dating sites and anywhere lonely women—especially past the age of 50—look for love," said Berton. "Victims often report their new online partners fell in love with them 'at first sight' and started asking for money soon after. Excuses range from starting a new business they would both benefit from, medical care, and more. Whatever the story, the requests for money never stop after the first time."
Berton adds there are women who have drained their life savings, only to learn they were scammed and deceived. But there are ways to protect yourself.
The FTC recommends:
- Never sending money or gifts to someone you haven't met in person.
- Taking things slowly and asking questions while looking for inconsistency in responses.
- Utilize your search engine's "search by image" feature to see if the person's photo shows up under a different name—a huge red flag.
- Talk to friends and family about this new love interest and pay attention if they become concerned.
If you think you're being scammed, cut off contact immediately and report the individual.
"Scammers," said Berton, "are expert manipulators, crafty liars, and woo women out of money while pretending to be their knight in shining armor—it happens all the time. And while romance frauds primarily target mature women, all women should be aware of the many types of fraud out there."
Written by Sarah Suydam, Staff Writer for West Michigan Woman.
This article originally appeared in West Michigan Woman.