WASHINGTON (Xinhua) – More than 21,000 Americans fell victim to soaring “romance scams” involving dating or courtship in 2018, losing a total of $143 million, according to a report from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released on Tuesday.
In comparison, the reports of such romance-related scams FTC received stood at 8,500 in 2015, with a total cost of $33 million dollars, the agency said.
Romance scams involve an alleged scammer setting up a fake personal profile on social media or dating websites to woo potential victims and then ask them for money for fake emergencies or other major expenses.
“Once these fraudsters have people by the heartstrings, they say they need money, often for a medical emergency or some other misfortune,” the FTC report said.
“They often claim to be in the military and stationed abroad, which explains why they can’t meet in person. Pretending to need help with travel costs for a long-awaited visit is another common ruse,” said the report.
Such scams primarily target Americans aged 40 to 69, who fall victim to romantic schemes twice than those in their 20s, said the report.
The median reported loss to a romantic scam was $2,600, roughly seven times more than the median loss across other types of fraud in the country. However, older victims lost the most money, reporting a median loss of $10,000 from romantic scams.
Scammers typically ask for the money through gift cards and other reloadable cards, which are quicker, more anonymous than other forms of payments and harder to reverse, according to a The Hill news daily report.