Most of us have grown up with the warning not to trust strangers. We would never share personal details without verifying an identity or hand over $100 from our wallet to a stranger. But what happens when someone shows up in our home, asking for all of this and more?
In our current age of technology and social media, the prevalence of online romance scams has become a growing concern. As people get more comfortable navigating dating apps and social media, scammers have found new ways to exploit people who are just hoping to find love, friendship, or companionship. These crimes occur on our computers and phones, right in the safety of our homes.
In the last few years, romance scams have become a widespread issue. In 2022 alone, they affected at least 70,000 people – and those are only the ones that reported their concerns. The losses stemming from romance scams in a single year topped $1.3 billion, with most people losing almost $4,500 per incident.
The tactics used by scammers are becoming more sophisticated, making it difficult for even the most tech-savvy individuals to detect them. These scams are riskiest for seniors aged 55 to 64, but anyone can be targeted, regardless of age, gender, or sexual orientation.
Today, we’ll explore why romance scams have become so prevalent in 2023 and show how you can take steps to avoid becoming a target.
Three Factors Driving the Growth of Romance Scams
While romance scams have been gaining in popularity for years, the circumstances that began developing in 2020 accelerated this trend. Three critical factors have been identified by experts as essential to the explosion of romance scams that have increased over the past three years.
- Pandemic-era isolation
- Our growing comfort with online dating
- The rise of cryptocurrency
The combination of these factors has been called a “combustible combination for fraud” by data researchers at the Federal Trade Commission.
When so many of us started isolating and socially distancing in early 2020, it began to create a deep sense of uncertainty and insecurity. Humans are social creatures and are designed to exist in groups.
When people were forced to stay indoors and limit their social interactions, many of us turned to online dating, social media, or other networking sites to find love and companionship.
This gave scammers the perfect opportunity to prey on people’s vulnerability and loneliness. Fewer face-to-face interactions made it harder to detect red flags, such as inconsistencies in the scammer’s story or suspicious requests for money. It also separated people from their social safety nets, making them more likely to reach out to strangers.
Additionally, the pandemic greatly heightened many people’s emotional distress, making them more likely to fall for romantic or even platonic overtures from scammers who used flattery, affection, and the promise of a better future to cajole their victims into doing what they wanted.
Growing Comfort with Online Dating
While the percentage of the American population that has used dating sites or apps has remained consistent since 2019, what’s growing is our acceptance of these tools. There are now more choices than ever before, specifically targeted to different age ranges, demographics, and interests. People have started using them not only for romance but also to make friends or find travel companions.
As more people turn to online dating and social networks to find love and connections, scammers have also found a lucrative opportunity to prey on individuals’ emotions and financial resources.
These apps and sites provide scammers with a large pool of potential victims, making it easier for them to create fake profiles and lure unsuspecting individuals into relationships. From there, scammers have proven time and time again that they’re happy to play the long game – often talking to their targets for up to six months before they ask for money.
The Rise of Cryptocurrency
The third factor that has combined to make romance scams so prevalent – and damaging – in 2023 is the proliferation of cryptocurrency.
Ten years ago, crypto was solely a niche industry, but now it’s gone mainstream. Bitcoin alone has jumped in price by 311,000% since it was launched on Coinbase in 2012, sparking much broader interest from the public along the way.
This interest can be harmful since it offers scammers the illusion of doing something innovative and potentially lucrative when they brag about “investing in crypto” to their unsuspecting targets.
Unlike gift cards or traditional currency, cryptocurrency provides scammers with an anonymous and decentralized means of receiving payments, making it easier for them to avoid detection. Romance scammers often use cryptocurrency to accept payments from their victims, since it is difficult to trace and recover once the funds are transferred.
Avoiding Romance Scams with Free Identity Verification Services
The ongoing isolation of the past few years, coupled with growing societal acceptance of both online dating and cryptocurrency, has made it easier than ever for scammers to find new targets.
The best way to avoid these scams is to ensure you know and can verify the identity of anyone you trust online. Using a free identity check tool like Dentity makes it easy.
Dentity is simple, easy, and risk-free. The first step is to sign up and verify your identity. From there, you keep your identity information in a private, portable, safe and secure online wallet. Whenever you’re talking to a new person online – romantic or otherwise – you can request their verified information so they can prove that they are who they say they are. No more uncertainty, stress, or heartache.
Sign up today to see for yourself.