Love: A $56 Million Ripoff

107952251_bd74f378e5The following is a guest post by Sid Kirchheimer:

Love don’t cost a thing?  Not according to the latest findings of the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. More than 10 percent of total financial losses in online scams reported last year – about $56 million out of the $525 million overall – involved romance ripoffs.

The biggest losers, in money and heartbreak: Women 50 and older, who lost $34 million, roughly two of every three dollars in romance scams. Similarly aged men were swindled out of nearly $5 million, more than half of the total reported losses by all male victims.

Keep in mind those figures are just from reports filed about various scams with the cybercrime-tracking agency. Older Americans are less likely than other age groups to admit to being victimized in any type of scam, say officials.

Read: Confessions of a scam artist

Romance scammers may be self-employed or part of overseas organized crime rings, sending hundreds of emails per day to members of online dating websites and chat rooms. Using stolen photos, they customize their phony identities based on targets’ profiles – you mention that you love dogs, they claim to volunteer at an animal shelter, for instance – and after a few weeks of sweet cyber-talk, the inevitable hook: Your new love needs your help – aka your money – for a personal emergency or plane ticket to meet.

Those who use online dating sites should educate themselves about how these scammers operate and how to look for warning signs of a sweetheart swindle.

Meanwhile, another report finds that “real” love has its own costs – at least come breakup time: risk of identity theft.

It occurs when a revenge-seeking ex posts details online of a former sweetheart’s bank accounts, Social Security number, email address and passwords. After Splitsville, such revenge leaks occur to at least one partner in one of 12 couples older than 45 (and one in eight couples of all age groups), reports online security vendor McAfee, after interviewing 1,200 Americans between 18 and 54.

And it’s not just details custom-made for identity thieves that warrant for cyber-posting concern. McAfee says that one in four boomer-aged interviewees admitted to sending risqué photos by email, text or social media to their partners (usually for Valentine’s Day).

Photo: Patrick Q/flickr


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