COLORADO SPRINGS — Whether it’s Valentine’s Day or not, the last thing you want is a broken heart. So it’s a good reminder to be aware of fraudsters who are preying on people looking for love by launching romance scams.
During the last few years News5 has profiled romance scam victims who say it was devastating to find out the person on the other end of the chat was only after their money.
New numbers from the Federal Trade Commission show last year there were 70,000 romance scams reported in the United States and people lost a reported 1.3 billion dollars.
$493M (2019), $730M (2020), $1.3B (2021) $1.3B (2022).
More than half of those reporting say they were contacted initially through social media, a website, or dating app and often the fraudster wanted to move the conversation to a private messaging app.
These were the top lies from scammers that fooled people into paying them…
- Someone close to me is hurt, sick, or in jail
- I can teach you how to invest
- I’m in the military or somewhere far away
- I need help with an important delivery
And these are the top ways people paid romance scammers…
- Gift cards
- Payment apps
- Wire transfers
Here’s a look at some of the testimonies News5 has heard when it comes to the impact of romance scams.
United States Army veteran Lea Peterson says she learned first hand how sophisticated and awful romance scams can be.
”Until it happens to you, you don’t think you’re going to,” said Peterson.
After spending years mourning the loss of her husband to cancer she decided to re-enter the dating scene by going online, but ended up sending thousands of dollars to scammers who are posing as a Gulf of Mexico oil worker who she fell in love with.
”It wasn't just some guy scammed me out of a gift card. It was a team of well-oiled machinery using internet false websites and false bank sites and all kinds of deep information," said Peterson. "I did research and unfortunately I wasn't diligent enough because at the same time I was lonely. I was looking for companionship."
Sam says she believes she was being groomed by a scammer who could never meet in person.
"I asked him, you know, would you like to meet, just, you know, for a quick, a quick meet in person. And he was very offended that I had suggested this, because he had such a busy schedule to get on his international flight. So I thought, Okay, this is pretty clearly not a real thing," Sam said.
Steve Belcher says he dished out his life savings of $1.6 million after meeting a woman on a dating app. She convinced him to invest his money in a fraudulent cryptocurrency app.
"It's devastating. I mean, emotionally, physically, there was days that I didn't want to get out of bed. I mean, it's just draining," said Belcher.
Cliff Pierre says he was targeted by a romance scam and it wasn’t even on a dating platform, but in a random text.
”You don’t want to do anything with it because I know that sort of thing can be dangerous,” said Pierre.
He says he uncovered the scam doing a reverse image search on a photo texted to him.
“Once I found out it was apparently a phishing scam or something I blocked the number,” said Pierre.
Testimonies like this are important for uncovering how these costly scams happen.
If you have questions or a story you want to share please reach out to us at News5.
Watch KOAA News5 on your time, anytime with our free streaming app available for your Roku, FireTV, AppleTV and Android TV. Just search KOAA News5, download and start watching.