DETROIT – Help Me Hank has warned you about so-called romantic rip-offs in the past. Unfortunately, scammers are still working to break hearts and steal money from unsuspecting victims.
The Federal Trade Commission says the number of romantic scams jumped about 50% from 2019 to 2020.
The agency estimates $304 million has been stolen, but that number could be even larger because some people might be too embarrassed to come forward after they lose money. The FTC also says the people most affected are between 60 and 79 years old. Those over 70 suffer the biggest losses, about $9,000 on average, experts said.
The scams usually start with an unexpected friend request or a fake online dating profile. Eventually, after the scammers earn your trust, they are likely to ask for money for some kind of emergency. Be on the lookout, be cautious, and here are some steps that can help you avoid romantic rip-offs:
- Never wire money to anyone. It can’t be tracked and it’s impossible to get back.
- If someone asks for money or personal information and you haven’t met in person, consider that a huge red flag.
- If you meet someone online, request an in-person meeting or some kind of video chat before things go too far.
- Talk to a trusted group of friends about any new relationships. See what they think of how things are going. If you’re already getting emotionally involved, they might see things more clearly.
- Plan your first meeting in public. Don’t have them meet you at home, and don’t share your address until you’re 100% comfortable with that person.
- You could even consider making the first meeting a “group” date with other people.
- Go dutch by paying half the bill.
- Remember alcohol affects your judgment. You may want to avoid any alcohol during first meeting. If you do drink, keep your beverage within sight at all times.
- Use your own transportation and make sure you have more than enough gas.
- Avoid secluded areas as meeting destinations
- Listen to your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. And if you haven’t met before, and you know at the beginning of the date that something doesn’t feel right, leave immediately.
- Always let someone else know where you’re going. Be sure someone knows where you are going and who you’ll be with. You might even consider arranging a time to call and check in. Or you could arrange to meet up with friends later that night.
- Always remain alert. Even if you’re having a blast and the chemistry is great, it’s a good idea to remain alert the whole evening. Make sure you have a cell phone on you.