This week, state Attorney General Ashley Moody issued a Consumer Alert and a new Scams at a Glance brochure for Floridians seeking companionship this Valentine’s Day.
Romance scams prey on an individual’s desire for companionship and occur when imposters pose as a person seeking love on dating sites, social media or even in-person to gain trust—and ultimately swindle unsuspecting sweethearts.
“It’s a trick as old as cupid himself—seducing targets with flattery and attention to get to their wallets through their hearts. As we celebrate Valentine’s Day, it is important to be alert for scammers who may attempt to trick those seeking companionship into thinking they have found their soulmates. Unsuspecting Floridians may find out weeks or even months later that those they thought were their soulmates would be better suited to play the role of inmate in a local prison. So, remember to guard your heart, as well as your wallet, when seeking companionship this Valentine’s Day, especially online,” Moody said.
For the last three years, reports of money lost on romance scams has skyrocketed higher than any other type of fraud. The year 2020 resulted in a record-breaking reported loss of $304 million nationally in romance scams. This is a 50 percent increase from 2019 and more than a quadruple increase from 2016.
Moody issued a new edition to Scams at a Glance that urges Floridians to follow these tips to guard against romance scams and ensure Valentine’s Day is memorable for all the right reasons:
- When meeting someone new online, ask detailed questions
- Seek the opinion of trusted friends and family members
- Conduct a reverse image search to see whether the image of a love interest is connected to any other accounts under different names or with different information
- Never establish a joint bank account, or give access to accounts, to new sweethearts
- Watch for typos or inconsistencies in speech patterns, personal information or stories shared in email, text or social media conversations
- Never send money or gifts to someone who has not been met in person—even if they send money first
- Be aware that scammers may claim they need money urgently to travel to meet in person, take advantage of a business opportunity or deal with a family tragedy