Romance Scams: An Overview + What They Could Cost You

As technology evolves, so does our means for fostering new relationships. 

The internet enables us to meet new people we would otherwise never know—and maybe even in places otherwise unknown to us.  Unfortunately, scammers too have made good on these convenient truths and become quite good at conning a gentle heart by committing romance scams, otherwise known as online dating scams. 

So, how do you protect yourself?

In this article we will discuss: 

  • What’s An Online Dating Scam
  • Why We Fall For Con Artists 
  • How Often Romance Scams Occur
  • The Average Cost of Romance Scams

What’s An Online Dating Scam?

As our world has embraced the benefits of technology, we have also embraced online romance. With online dating we are able to present ourselves to the entire world. We do this hoping to find our special someone to love.

Unfortunately, just like in the physical world, there are others not looking for romance. They are looking to take advantage of us financially, psychologically, and sometimes involve us in fraudulent activities.

These scammers, romance scammers more specifically, make convincing profiles, sometimes stolen from a real individual. 

They find their victims while hunting through:

  • Dating websites
  • Social media sites
  • Email exchanges
  • Other messaging apps

Then when they begin to “court” you, they try to move quickly. Some will tell a life story during their introduction. Others will try to attract you by telling you how beautiful you are.. They may plead with you to contact them outside of the dating app or social media. 

Take note that these are all signs of a romance scam.

Why Do We Fall For Con Artists? 

Falling victim to a scam can leave victims now only broke but also embarrassed. Yet, it can happen to all too many of us—by some counts up to 25,000 people annually.

So, why do we fall for these romance scammers in the first place?

  1. They’re charismatic and easy to talk with. 

This is why so many people get caught up in romance scams. It is easy to lose oneself in the dream of true love, even if you’ve never met face to face. You want to believe all this person is telling you. Why shouldn’t you? You’re being honest with them. What reason would they have to lie to you?

  1. The Con Plays With Your Emotions and Your Heart

They begin manipulating your emotions immediately, for they know all the right and beautiful things to say to you. Before you know it, this total stranger is talking of long term love and even marriage. They may already be priming you to start saving money together for your future.

  1. They Make Promises (That They Will Not Keep)

These swindlers will make promises to meet with you. Then they will give excuses as to why they cannot see you face to face. They might even request you send them money so they can travel to see you. Guess what? They’ll gladly accept your cash, but will find any excuse as to why they cannot see you or why they needed the money for something else.

Before you even realize it, this person who convinced you they are your guiding light, has stolen your heart and money. They have disappeared, leaving you to pick up the pieces of your shattered dreams and ransacked life.

How Often Do Romance Scams Occur?

We’ve all probably thought, “this would never happen to me,” but the sad truth is it can happen to anyone. The Federal Bureau of Investigation reported more than 23,000 complaints related to romance scams were issued last year alone, though the actual percentage of victims is probably higher as victims often do not always report the fraud due to embarrassment.

According to the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker Risk Report, romance scammers typically target: 

  • Women
  • Midwesterns
  • People in the 55 – 64 age group

The Average Cost of Romance Scams

It’s not a mere allowance that victims lose to romance scammers.

According to the  Federal Trade Commission, consumers have lost a record $304 million due to online dating scams in the past year. These losses have averaged around $2,500 per person. Sadly the number of reported scams rose 50 percent from 2019, making 2020 the worst year yet for romance fraud.

For more perspective, Norton compiled some of the most alarming online dating scam statistics and summed them up in the infographic below. Pore over them, and maybe even pick up a few online dating pointers.

Please include attribution to this graphic.

Romance scams in 2021: What you need to know plus online dating scam statistics

Sarah has over a decade of writing and editing experience, including in magazine journalism and blogging. She specializes in lifestyle topics and occasionally dabbles in cybersecurity. Her day job is being a content marketing specialist at Siege Media.