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It’s day four of National Consumer Protection Week and we’ve been discussing ways we can look out for each other during the pandemic. Today’s topic – romance scams. Check out and share this short video

Beyond the job losses and economic fallout of the pandemic, the loneliness and isolation brought on by our virtual lives has real consequences. This might explain why romance scams reached a record $304 million in losses reported to the FTC in 2020. That’s up about 50% from 2019.

Romance scams can start out in lots of ways – like when scammers create fake profiles on dating apps or social media. But these scams always end the same way – with a made up story about why the person needs money. Even if this scam might not affect you, it could be happening to someone you know. 

So, as you check in on the health and safety of the people you care about, take a moment, pick up the phone and reach out to someone you might not have spoken with in a while. Check in with them, see how they are doing and listen to what they say – you might help them spot and avoid a romance scam.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • If a friend or loved one mentions an online love interest, ask if they’ve met in person.
  • If they haven’t met in person, and that love interest asks for money, that’s a scam. Period. No matter what story they tell — even if they send you money or gifts first.
  • Only scammers tell people to send money by gift cards, money transfer, or cryptocurrency. If your friend sends any of these, they probably won’t get their money back. 
  • Report romance scams to the dating or social networking site, and to the FTC at And anyone who paid a romance scammer should also report it to the gift card, money transfer, or cryptocurrency platform.

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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

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March 04, 2021
Very common, especially from fake military personnel. First they "friend" you on FB, then start with sweet words, building up to an online romance, then they spring their money problem when they think they have you hooked. They need money to go home (not true in the military), don't have enough money to buy food or health care, or pay for some medical process, or their family member (usually a child) is in dire need of something and they cannot get money to them as the military won't let them do such things online, or they can't log onto a computer or phone to access their bank, or they do not have a single credit card. And of course, never share your phone number, address or pictures since you will have provided them a whole new entity to scam or worse. Don't be fooled by cyberlove or a sad story.
March 05, 2021

In reply to by Lucia

This happened to me in 2018 into 2019 when I finally reported all to ftic and IC 3. I really wish they could catch these scammers. I lost alot
March 04, 2021
This happened to me in is devastating!
March 07, 2021
Lucia you have just described the person I have been communicating with on Hangouts. I met him on Words with Friends. Very polite and interested in my life and interests. Suddenly he needed money for his child, telling me he froze all his accounts here. He is in the Army and has been in several areas is the Middle East the last 2 years. Asks for money to buy food there because he doesn’t like what they have. Now he has me picking up Moneygrams to send to him in Bitcoins. The longer this goes on the more convinced I am he is a scammer. I don’t know what to do. I know I will never get my money back. I will just have to chalk it up to lesson learned. But never again!! My daughter told me he was a scam, but I didn’t listen! Please, whoever reads this, don’t get involved with anyone on any social media. They are not real!
Fooled too
April 14, 2021

In reply to by Neveragain

I too met a sweet guy, saying all the right things, his offshore job ended early, but he got caught at the airport as he traveled with too much cash, and needs 150,000.00 to get out of "detainment" that he isn't officially detained for, that's what his lawyer says anyways.
March 07, 2021
This is happening to someone I love very dearly. He was very sick a right at a year ago. After a really bad episode he never fully came back mentally. He knows nothing about the internet at all except for what little I have taught him. He thinks he is in love and he is helping his future wife out until she can move here and her inheritance will be deposited into his bank account. I just found out that he has already sent her at least $2000.00. He truly believes that he will get back every cent. Are there any legal actions that can be taken? This is my brother and I created his accounts so I can see every message. I am afraid to just block them because I don’t know how he will handle knowing he is out of all of that money, or handle not talking to “her” because he thinks they are in love. Any advice would be helpful. Either way I don’t seem to see a positive ending to this situation. GOOGLE HANGOUTS, that is where she has him talk to her. I am sure her name isn’t real or anything else. HELP!
May 05, 2021

In reply to by ISeeYou

Is her name Debra wilson, she scammed me out of 7000 February 12 th to get her back to the states from north Cyprus she of course collapsed and didn’t make it back here and I’m out 7000 never going on a dating site again
March 28, 2021
My friend is falling for a scammer but wont listen , hes supposed to be a veternarian named Donald taking care of a sick elephant in Dominican Republic
April 11, 2021
Does anyone know if and/or how long it takes for FTC or the FBI to address something? I’m caught in a blackmail romance scam now, and desperately trying to get out of it.
April 21, 2021
Hi me im a victim now I dont even hesitate to tattoo his name because he really said just to trust his fb is kirk lewis a guy with red shirt i hope if anyone reading this can identify this man for real or maybe just chat that guy that someone is using his photo for faking because he never show his face...
April 29, 2021
I was lucky and caught on very quickly due to some inconsistent forgotten about comments on his end. He had quite the story and it included him rushing off to his best friend a doctor in Syria who was apparently shot. Since he was a doctor he had to go to his aid or he would never forgive himself. After a few days he complained that he needed a $100.00 card so he could stay on the net. I searched out his email and through a third party discovered this was a huge ring. How he contacted me was through Scrabble Go. Be aware they often wait to see if you will make first contact not the other way around. This is a good trick on their end.
May 11, 2021
It started off innocent enough. Compliments about my blog made me feel at ease. It did progress rather quickly. Having someone tell you you are special person gives you the idea this person you are messaging must like you. Who doesn't like a compliment? I began to let my guard down and then came the story about how her problems had been getting worse and if she could only find a way to take care of them, her life would be so much better- I was raised to be a gentleman and being able to help someone out gave me a feeling of accomplishment. When you relax and let your guard down, you start to see this person as a real friend. I felt like I should help out. Her innuendoes began to melt away my defense and had me thinking is this lady the one for me. It only got worse
Fina. Badalame…
August 20, 2021
I was scam he took a lots of money ! and more! I can’t believe it ? When I supposed look for help ? My depression I cannot control! Where can I get help?
September 01, 2021
My wife’s grandmother is going through this right now. She is so in love with this fake person and has given over 20k. An orthopedic surgeon contracted with the military in Afghanistan. Has her wiring money via bitcoin and sending gift cards. She wants to sell her house and give him the money. We don’t know what to do if she won’t listen to us. I’m concerned because there are so many stories like this and people asking for help, but I don’t see anything other than to “file a complaint”. There has to be a more robust response to this.
FTC Staff
September 01, 2021

In reply to by D

The US Army has detailed warnings about people who pretend to be soldiers and copies of fake documents scammers have used. I understand this scammer is pretending to be a surgeon, not a soldier, but you might find some useful information on the Army sites, to show your wife's grandmother. She may be interested in these warnings from the Army. 

Some scammers send money to people, and then tell them to deposit in in the bank, or send it to other people. The scammer may say to wire the money or buy gift cards. They don't reveal that the money they sent is really stolen. If you help a scammer move money, even if you don't know it was stolen, you could get in legal trouble for being a money mule. 

You could contact the Adult Protective Services (APS) office in your wife's grandmother's home area. APS workers are social service workers who help people who are at risk of being financially exploited. You can search for APS services and other services on the ElderCare Locator, which is funded by the federal Administration on Aging.