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Romance Scam Statistics and the Need for Prevention

These romance scam statistics show why we need World Romance Scam Prevention Day.

Tuesday, October 3rd, is the first annual World Romance Scam Prevention Day. Though the officially recognized day is new, the need is not. Romance scams and their losses have only been increasing over the past few years. In this article, we report on the romance scam statistics from the data we have right now – and some ways you can get involved in World Romance Scam Prevention Day.

Romance Scams by the Numbers

$1.3 Billion

amount of money lost to romance scammers in the last five years1

$4,400

median reported loss to romance scammers1

#11

romance scam rank by number of victims2

#5

romance scam rank by amount lost2

And that’s just what’s reported! Scams, fraud, and cybercrime are still vastly under-reported. Some estimates suggest only 16% of actual fraud are reported and included in the romance scam statistics7. So the incidents and losses may actually be much, much higher.

Profile of a Romance Scam

You don’t have to be looking for love to be a victim of a romance scam. In fact, over a third of online romance scam victims in 2021 were approached on Facebook or Instagram4, not a dating app or website.

Your age does affect how scammers will approach you. Adults ages 18-59 are most likely to be initially contacted by romance scammers on social media (31% of reports)3 or through another website or app (30% of reports)3. Adults age 60 or older are more likely to be initially contacted by scammers via phone call (24% of reports)3, but a website or app is the second most likely point of contact (21% of reports)3.

Scammers have favorite ways to get payments from people. Gift cards are the most common way scammers ask for your money (24% of reports)1. They also like cryptocurrency (19%), payment apps like Venmo and Zelle (15%), and wire transfers or bank transfers (14%)1. But even though gift cards are the most frequently reported, they only account for 7% of losses to romance scams. The biggest losses happen when the payment method is cryptocurrency (24%) and wire transfers or bank transfers (27%)1.

Romance Scammers’ Favorite Lies

Looking at romance scam statistics, scammers re-use the same stories to gain your trust (and your money). Here are a few of their favorite lies:1

I’m sick, hurt, or in jail or my loved one is sick, hurt, or in jail. This is the most common story, told in 24% of romance scam cases. They play on your heartstrings so you’ll send money.

I can teach you to invest. This lie shows up in 18% of romance scam reports. It’s the hook for a combination of romance scam and investment scam known as “pig butchering.”

I’m in the military and stationed far away. This lie is sometimes called a military romance scam. It’s a believable story for why you can’t meet them in person (and sometimes why you can’t call or video chat). At 18% of reports, it’s tied for third most common scammer story.

I need help with an important delivery. Another lie tied for third at 18% of reports, this one is another way to get at your money.

I know we’ve never met, but I want to marry you. In 12% of reports, victims reported their scammers offered to marry them. It’s an emotional manipulation tactic to keep you on the hook.

I’ve come into some money or gold. A classic scam story that shows up in 7% of romance scam cases. This stroke of “good luck” for them will end up with you losing money.

I work on a ship or oil rig. At 7% of reports, this story is less common. But it’s another great excuse for the scammer to never meet you in person.

You can trust me with your private pictures. Scammers tell this lie in a specific variation of romance scams called sextortion. It showed up in 3% of reports.

Profile of a Romance Scam Victim

Think you know what the average romance scam victim looks like? Take a look at these romance scam statistics for victims to see if you’re right.

1. Any Age

Some people think romance scammers mainly target the elderly. But victims can actually be any age. Adults ages 18-59 are actually 13% MORE likely to fall for a romance scam than adults older than 60.3 But even though younger adults fall for it more, older adults tend to lose more money – the median losses for older adults are nearly twice that of their younger counterparts.3

Romance scams can even target children. The most common age range for victims of sextortion, a type of romance scam, is 14-17.5

2. Any Gender

Many people assume that romance scammers target women. But romance scam statistics show that both men and women fall for scammers’ ploys. Women file more reports, but men report higher losses.6 Whatever your gender, scammers are happy to take your money.

3. Any Level of Intelligence or Education

People often assume that romance scam victims fall for it because they’re stupid or uneducated. But that’s not true at all. Even here at WhatIsMyIPAddress.com, we’ve interviewed many romance scam victims who are intelligent and highly educated. Debby Montgomery Johnson is a smart, capable businesswoman. Joe Eweka has two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice. Ayleen Charlotte is a successful entrepreneur. All of them fell for romance scams.

Bryan Denny, co-founder of the advocacy group Advocating Against Romance Scammers, says that the commonality between victims isn’t intelligence or education – it’s vulnerability. Even someone who would normally be able to spot a scam a mile off can fall for one if they’ve recently had a big loss or are otherwise emotionally vulnerable.

I don’t believe your job, social standing, status, or highest degree held really relates to romance scams … the underlying thing that I believe ties all the victims together is being in an emotionally vulnerable part of their life.

Bryan Denny

Get Involved in World Romance Scam Prevention Day

World Romance Scam Prevention Day, October 3rd, is organized by Bryan Denny and Kathy Waters of Advocating Against Romance Scammers. You can find ways to help prevent romance scams at protectingheartsday.com. The website provides ways you can get involved, examples of ways other communities are working towards romance scam prevention, and logos you can share to show your support.

On October 3rd, they are also offering a no-cost, no obligation webinar where you can learn more. Guest speakers will include a pig butchering survivor talking about their survivor story, a counselor talking about the emotional impact of manipulation in romance scams and how to recover, a representative from Match Group talking about the tech side of romance scams, and an FBI agent covering the reporting process and what you can expect when you report a scam. Register for the webinar at protectingheartsday.com/webinar.

Sources:

  1. Romance scammers’ favorite lies exposed | Federal Trade Commission (ftc.gov)
  2. IC3 2022 Annual Report
  3. Who experiences scams? A story for all ages | Federal Trade Commission (ftc.gov)
  4. Reports of romance scams hit record highs in 2021 | Federal Trade Commission (ftc.gov)
  5. Sextortion: It’s more common than you think | ICE
  6. 9 Shocking Online Dating Scam Statistics (Romance Scams Statistics) (dataprot.net)
  7. Fraud and cyber crime still vastly under-reported | Computer Weekly

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