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Around $1 Billion Stolen a Year; Online Romance Scams Are Pushing People To Self-Harm

Online criminals create bonds with people and gain trust only to deceive them in various ways. 
Pexels | (L) Designecologist | (R)  Anna Tarazevich (Note: These are sperate picture merged on Canva)
Pexels | (L) Designecologist | (R) Anna Tarazevich (Note: These are sperate picture merged on Canva)

Con artists are now targetting people online and bilking innocent people out of more than one billion dollars each year. According to reports, these fraudsters have stolen close to $1.3 billion a year. People are receiving friend requests from single men and women trying to lure them into starting a conversation. With great social engineering skills, these criminals successfully create bonds with people and gain trust over time only to deceive them eventually in various ways.

Pexels | Photo by Gustavo Fring
Pexels | Photo by Gustavo Fring

Norm Jones, a resident of California and an employee in the telecommunications and cybersecurity in the Silicon Valley area fell for a scam that left him feeling so helpless that he attempted suicide. In March, emergency personnel found Jones, unconscious in his bathroom. Speaking with NBC News, he said that his father and brother both were so scared and thought that he was dead. 

Jones, wants to help people so that they don't have to go through what he had to, "I’d be happy to help just one person in the world never go through what I went through," he said.

Experts say that the scams have become extremely potent and even people who have enough knowledge on these scams are falling for it. 

 Pexels | Zsófia Fehér
Pexels | Zsófia Fehér

The biggest issue is that the beginning of these scams looks so organic that it's extremely difficult to tell whether the person is genuinely interested in you or is just laying out a trap. 

Romance scammers create fake profiles that look like genuine ones. They spend a lot of time and energy making it look authentic which is why more and more people are finding it difficult to pinpoint the scams. 

According to the Federal Trade Commission, a record $547 million in losses to romance scams was reported in 2021 which is up about 80% from the reports the FTC had gotten the year before that.

There are certain ways you can verify if the person you're engaging with is genuine...

Reverse search the person's profile picture: There's a good chance that they are not using their photo, and if you image search the photo you might land up on the real person's page which can help you verify. 

Run any suspicious text through an online search: More often than not most of their lines are being reused on you. So, there's a good chance that someone has already warned everyone against those figures of speech in any online forum. 


It's important to understand that no matter how pro the scammer is, there are some limitations. A scammer can only try and look authentic, but there's always a way to tell as they are not authentic, after all. Here are some clear signs to keep in mind...

Scammers will always try and refrain from meeting in person: This is a given, as there are too many risks associated with meeting the victim in person. This is why, even if the scammer can meet you in person, he/she won't. Stories like, "I work in an oil rig, I am in the navy/military/I am working overseas" are always go-to for any scammer. 

Con artists will eventually ask you for money in some way or the other: Once they are past the trust-gaining phase they will soon find ways to ask you for money. Beware, they might not ask for money directly. However, any type of request to pay their bills and bear their expenses is just another way of saying "Send me your money."

Even after you agree to pay them, they will want to control the method of payment: Say you agree to pay a certain amount of money for their travel expense to come and visit you and then you see that they are not happy with the way you are sending them the money for the ticket. In some cases, they will insist on buying the ticket themselves. Try and recognize the red flags, so that you don't have to regret it later.