The number of Americans tricked out of their money through romance scams fell last year, but fraudsters still made off with a record $1 billion from love-struck victims, according to a new analysis.
Data from Comparitech found an estimated 73,000 people in the U.S. fell victim to a romance scam in 2022, a 10% decline from the year before. However, the amount of money lost to swindlers reached the 10-figure mark for the first time – causing experts to sound the alarm.
Rebecca Moody, head of data research at Comparitech, says the findings suggest scammers are becoming more targeted in their approach, enabling them to carry out fewer scams while stealing from more victims.
"With Valentine's Day on the horizon, many adults remain vulnerable to romance scams and should be mindful of key warning signs that someone is trying to scam them," Moody told FOX Business.
Valentine's Day balloons and flowers are sold outside a convenience store on February 14, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)
The analysts found an increase of the number of "wrong number" scams whereby criminals text individuals claiming to know them. In order to get the victim to respond, the scammer may ask a question or send an explicit photo.
These types of scams can be carried out en-masse, and while many would-be victims simply delete the messages, others fall prey.
Moody also warns to be leery if someone on a dating site asks to communicate outside the platform, claims they are abroad for work or military service, or seemingly falls in love very quickly.
She also says to be suspicious if an online dating interest finds various excuses not to meet in person, asks for money or gift cards, asks you to send or receive a package, or offers you the opportunity to invest in something such as cryptocurrency.
While the number of victims appears to be falling as more people become aware of romance scams, the crimes often go unreported either because those targeted realize it is a scam and ignore it or victims are too embarrassed to admit they were duped.
A 2019 survey conducted by AARP found that 14% of U.S. adults reported being targeted by romance scams and 4% fell victim.