Online Romance Scams Led to $113 Million Financial Loss in 2021, the FBI Reports
Hackers Made People Lose Money Through the Belief into an Illusional Relationship.
As per an FBI report published yesterday on the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) site, Americans managed since the beginning of this year to lose $113 million. The reason? Falling prey to the vast trend of online romance scams.
Online Romance Scams: How Do Cybercriminals Behind This Fraud Operate?
The FBI described in its report how such online romance scams take place. Hackers make use of a dating-related social media website or an application and make victims put their trust in them by pretending to be someone else, more exactly by employing false identities.
They also make the targets believe in an illusional romantic relationship only to determine them eventually fall prey to these scams by convincing them to invest in cryptocurrency. They further strengthen the feeling of trustworthiness, because after the victims invest the initial amount of money on the website where they are redirected by scammers and make a profit, they can withdraw some sum of money. This will make them believe the investment opportunity is real.
Then the victims go on with investing more money being urged by hackers, but they will not be able to further withdraw the profit they make.
The FBI warns of a rising trend in which scammers are defrauding victims via online romance scams, persuading individuals to send money to allegedly invest or trade cryptocurrency.
The threat is real because victims could become money mules, meaning that scammers make them illegally transfer money on their behalf.
Online Romance Scams: New or Known?
According to BleepingComputer publication, online romance scams are not something new. So-called “confidence frauds” were also associated with 2019 and 2020. The FBI’s Internet Crime Reports stated that Americans lost $475M in 2019 and over $600M in 2020, as a consequence of these kinds of romance frauds.
Sextortion-related frauds are also on the rise, as the FBI and FTC have warned this month. People who use online dating apps or websites can become potential targets: the general public with a focus on LGBTQ+ members.
From January 1, 2021 — July 31, 2021, the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received over 1,800 complaints, related to online romance scams, resulting in losses of approximately $133,400,000.
What to Do?
Alongside the description of how this kind of scam works, the FBI provided in the same report some useful tips on how to avoid being the victim. Here’s how:
- First of all, you should never trust somebody met solely online to the extent of following their advice to invest, trade, or send money.
- The private financial status should not be disclosed to strangers.
- Sensitive data such as Social Security Number, banking-related information of passport or ID copies should not be made available to people or on websites that seem suspicious or if there’s no guarantee of their legitimacy.
- Usually, platforms that promote unreal profits are scams for sure.
- People should carefully manage the interaction with individuals who promote “exclusive” investment-related opportunities or a sense of urgency.
If somebody, by any means, has fallen prey to these kinds of online romance scams, then he/she should straightaway cut off any communication with the cybercriminal and go to www.ic3.gov to submit a formal complaint. Financial institutions should be also contacted to see if transactions can be recovered or blocked.
Additionally, here’s a video where online romance scams are thoroughly detailed by special agent Christine Beining: