The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has said the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown measures caused romance scams to spike in 2020.
Approximately $304 million was lost throughout the year, an increase of 50% compared to 2019. It’s estimated that the average victim was conned out of $2,500.
People were not allowed to meet offline for most of the year, which led to lots of new relationships forming on dating platforms and social media services. This allowed scammers to have a greater number of targets and the spike in cases show they clearly took advantage.
According to ZDNet, a spokesperson for the FTC explained: “Scammers claim to have sent money for a cooked-up reason, and then have a detailed story about why the money needs to be sent back to them or on to someone else. People think they’re helping someone they care about, but they may actually be laundering stolen funds.
“In fact, many reported that the money they received and forwarded on turned out to be stolen unemployment benefits.”
The average age of victims fell in 2020, which again was largely due to people working from home. However, those over the age of 70 lost approximately $9,500 each.
Most of these figures are based on estimations as a significant number of victims can be too embarrassed to come forward and report the crimes.
Unfortunately, romance fraud continues to rise as dating apps become more and more popular. It’s believed that only $75 million was lost in 2016, meaning the impact has grown by over 300% in the last four years.
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