FBI Says Americans Lost $1 Billion To 'Romance Scammers' In 2021

Daniel Mitchell-Benoit
A woman holing her phone while also sitting in front of her latpop.
Unsplash | Firmbee.com

We live in a very digital age, where many of the social experiences that could once only happen in your immediate life can instead happen through a screen, connected with other people around the world.

One of those experiences is that of finding love, or even casual dating. Finding a partner online can be just a click away, but authorities warn those engaging with online dating to be careful, as among potential lovers are also potential threats.

A shocking FBI statistic was released recently.

A couple holding hands
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It states that in 2021, around 24,000 Americans lost over $1 billion to romance scammers, making it the most lucrative year for romance scammers on record according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Romance scams are increasing in numbers across the board.

A man lifting up his girlfriend in a hug.
Unsplash | Kaysha

They're affecting every age group, but the highest increase was seen in people ages 18-29. That being said, those in younger age groups tend to lose less money. That same group reported a median loss of $750, while ages 70 and up would often suffer losses of around $9000 or more.

They also noticed a new trend with these scams.

A computer monitor tracking crypto value.
Unsplash | Nick Chong

Many romance scammers, and online-based scammers in general, have turned to using cryptocurrency.

In fact, 25% of scams reported to the FTC were paid in cryptocurrency, while other scams are taking the form of fake cryptocurrency advice such as which types to buy into.

They're still far from the most common.

Someone's hand holding fanned out payment cards
Unsplash | Avery Evans

The most-reported method in 2021 was perhaps the most well-known among the general public, gift card scams.

Gift or reload cards were the most common form of payment at 28%, cryptocurrency at 18%, payment apps such as Venmo or Cashapp at 14%, bank transfers at 13%, and wire transfers at 12%.

These scams can take place anywhere.

Someone's Facebook app showing three notifications.
Unsplash | Brett Jordan

They're most frequently found on dating apps, fittingly enough, but over one-third of last year's victims were first contacted through Facebook, meaning social media is an equally opportunistic feeding ground for these people.

The FBI has some tips for anyone worried they may be encountering a romance scam.

A woman holing her phone while also sitting in front of her latpop.
Unsplash | Firmbee.com

They urge anyone seeking romance online, or anyone who thinks they may be speaking to a scam account, to "go slowly and ask lots of questions,” research the user's photo to see if it's been stolen from somewhere else online, and avoid any sort of monetary transactions with people you don't truly know.

h/t: Forbes