INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- The more love is in the air, the more scammers will look to capitalize on those searching for that special someone.
Reports of romance scams have nearly tripled in the last five years, according to the Federal Trade Commission, leading to a whopping $200 million loss among Americans in 2019 alone.
Romance scams typically originate online, where a scammer uses stolen photographs to trick an unsuspecting subject into thinking they are a real person looking for love. The scammer will often coax the person off dating platforms and communicate more personally, ultimately leading to a request for money.
"Those are real dangerous sorts of situations to get into, because those people are out for your money, they're out for your personal information to maybe steal your identity, and we do see an uptick in those types of scams this time of year," said Tim Maniscalo, CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Indiana.
In one case reported to the BBB from Putnam County, Indiana, a woman said that she accepted a Facebook friend request from a stranger who began messaging her, claiming he was a military member stationed overseas and eventually saying that if she helped him pay to get home, the two could get married.
According to the FTC, some of the signs that your love interest isn't real include claims they live overseas due to some type of job assignment, flattering messages that often progress quickly and plans to meet you in person that become thwarted because of an emergency, usually which requires money to solve.
Maniscalo warned that you should never give money to someone you have not met in person, especially if they request that money through an unusual payment method like wire transfer or gift cards.
"We've seen people wipe out almost their entire savings thinking ... this person needs money, they're in love with me, one day I'm going to meet this person," Maniscalo said.
If you suspect someone is trying to trick you through a romance scam, you should stop communication immediately and report it to the BBB at the link here and to the FTC at the link here. If you met them through a dating website or app, you should also report it to that company. You can find more information and tips from the FTC about romance scams at the link here.
You can contact the CBS4 Problem Solvers for help or to report a scam at 317-677-1544 or ProblemSolvers@cbs4indy.com.