COLORADO SPRINGS — Every year, Valentine's Day is a lucrative holiday for companies in the flowers, cards, and candy business, but another group is also poised to rake in the cash, the fraudsters and scammers. News5 shows us why you need to be on guard for these attacks.
Year round, romance scams are a devastating and costly problem. We've featured some of these stories right here on News5, but this time around scammers are ready to go after people thinking about love during the isolation and loneliness of the pandemic.
Here's what we know about romance scams by the numbers:
- 25 million people are using dating apps
- Experts with Norton say about 10% of the online profiles are fake.
- The average loss in a romance scam is $2,600, for victims over 70 it is a startling $10,000.
- Women age 55 to 64 suffered the greatest financial losses.
"What happens is the scammers feed on that. They are absolutely going to ramp up their efforts. In my opinion this week they are going to focus almost exclusively on these Valentine's Day romance scams," said CSU Global's "Dr. Fraud" J. Michael Skiba.
"They are on online platforms and other dating sites looking basically for your money, not for your affection. So, as Valentine's Day is coming up and you are looking for maybe a special someone please be careful and aware that you could also be the victim of a scam," said Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser.
Here are some of the red flags the experts say to look for:
- For these scammers, a long-distance relationship is the norm
- They'll also want to take the conversation outside of the dating app or site. This makes it easier to fool the dating site's fraud detection if it has one.
- The fraudsters typically pose as doctors, military officers, oil rig workers, etc. who are all difficult to reach, or are traveling and can never meet up in person.
Even if you have a significant other, maybe you're even married, you too need to be on-guard for messages from fraudsters around Valentine's Day.
The crooks are looking to cash-in on your excitement of getting a call, email or text that your Valentine's Day gift has arrived, or is waiting for you. All you have to do is provide sensitive information, a payment, or click a link that isn't legitimate and can load malware on your device.
Fraud experts say the Valentine's Day secret environment is fueling these type of shipping scams.
"You have people in relationships right now that are trying to surprise their spouse, or girlfriends or boyfriend. So, if you get an email, or say you get a text about a teddy bear you might be reluctant to ask them to verify that it's actually theirs because it might ruin the surprise or take away from the romance of it," said Skiba.
Before you pay any company or provide information to any person, make sure you do your research to verify it's legitimate.
With people lonely, isolated, and looking for companionship almost a year into the pandemic, fraud experts are concerned this could be one of the most target-rich environments scammers have seen.
If you are targeted by one of these scams it's so important to report it to law enforcement and consumer protection officials.
You can file those reports by visiting stopfraudcolorado.gov and https://www.ftc.gov/faq/consumer-protection/submit-consumer-complaint-ftc