Even though we're a couple of days away from Valentine's Day, it's important to keep in mind that romance scams take place every day of every month of every year, especially since these types of scams really pay off for the criminals who are running them on unsuspecting victims.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Romance scammers create fake profiles on dating sites and apps or contact you through popular social media sites like Instagram or Facebook. The scammers strike up a relationship with you to build up trust, sometimes talking or chatting several times a day. Then, they make up a story and ask for money.

People reported a record $547 million in losses to romance scams in 2021. That’s up about 80% from the reports the FTC got in 2020. In 2021, people reported paying romance scammers more with gift cards than with any other payment method. The 2021 reports also showed that cryptocurrency payments were the most costly.

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The Rockford Regional Office Of The Better Business Bureau (BBB) Has Issued A Warning That Even Though Romance Scams Happen Throughout The Year, They Become Very Prevalent Around Valentine's Day

According to a Pew Research Center study, three in 10 U.S. adults have used a dating website or app to search for a romantic partner. Most romance scams start with fake profiles on online dating sites created by stealing photos and text from real accounts or elsewhere.

A profile is posted, and up pops a promising match (good-looking, intelligent, funny, and personable). This potential mate claims to live in another part of the country or to be abroad for business or military deployment. But they seem smitten and eager to get to know you better and suggest you move your relationship to a private channel like email or a chat app.

That's when they make the move to grab your money. Romance scam losses average out to about $2,000 per victim.

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One Key Component Of Romance Scams Is That The Scammer Will Eventually Tell The Potential Victim That There's Been An Emergency, And The Scammer Needs Money

As a local victim from Northern Illinois found out last year, these scammers can be very, very persuasive. She ended up losing over $30,000 dollars to a romance scam.

BBB's Dennis Horton:

That is when they will tell you they need money because of this “emergency.” They'll promise to pay it back, but that will never happen. Instead, they will keep asking for more until their victim realizes they’re being scammed. Victims have lost hundreds of millions of dollars. Along with asking for money, the other major tip-off to the rip-off is scammers always make excuses why they can’t ever meet in person and usually refuse even a video meeting because profiles they use online are completely fabricated.

Here's how to spot and avoid a romance scam:

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