Since 2018, it’s estimated that 30 percent of romance scam victims have been used money mules.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a romance scam involves meeting someone online who woos you, lavishes you with attention, gains your trust…then asks for money. They claim to need the money for a surgery or some other “dire” situation, and usually, they want the money by wire transfer or gift card.
In other instances, romance scammers woo their victims into opening bank accounts under the guise of sending or receiving funds.
Last year, complaints about romance scams were up 70% more compared to the previous year — the losses added to over $362 million.
An advisory, from the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), warned that malicious actors can trick their victims into unknowingly conducting fraudulent activities, such as moving funds obtained via business email compromise (BEC).
In other cases, the fraudster will claim to be a European citizen or an American living abroad and will tell the victim about a “lucrative business opportunity.” The “venture” is said to have already attracted a great deal of interest from investors who are willing to fund it but need a US bank account into which they can send the money.
Sadly, although romance scams are the second-costliest scam in terms of victim losses, often times victim are too embarrassed to come forward, so the losses are estimated to be a lot higher.