Romance phishing is a crime that inflicts financial damage as well as romantic love. According to the Federal Trade Commission FTC, the damage of such romance phishing scams in 2020 alone reached $304 million, up 50% from the previous year. This surge in damage appears to be affected by movement restrictions due to the spread of COVID-19.
Romance phishing is a scam that creates an attractive profile through pictures of good-looking people collected from the Internet and sends money to the person who is caught in love. Romance phishing damage in the United States is increasing year by year, with damages worth $75 million in 2016, but more than quadrupling to $304 million in 2020.
As for the reason why romance phishing damage increased significantly in 2020, the FTC believes that the cause is Corona 19. Romance phishing induces people not to meet in person by preventing the victim from wanting to see them because the person used in the profile does not exist or because it is easy to find out if they meet in person. According to the FTC, it has become easier to make excuses in one way or another, such as not being able to meet because of a positive result of Corona 19 as Corona 19 is prevalent around the world or that we cannot meet because of restrictions on going out. The FTC also believes that benefits paid due to COVID-19 may have raised the total amount of damage.
Although this romance phishing uses a dating app as the default, there are also increasing reports of being scammed through social media such as Facebook and Instagram. It is said that romance phishing on social media often starts as a sudden contact from an old friend, rather than as a form of wanting to meet.
Regarding the method of remittance to the victim, which is the core of romance phishing, the FTC explains that there are many methods in which the victim asks the victim to deposit the money first, attach the money to it, or ask someone else to deposit it. They warn that there is a possibility of money laundering through remittance as well as the possibility of defrauding money through this method.
As for the method of remittance, the use of gift cards also increased to 70%. According to the FTC, the number of damages by sending a gift card itself or using only the gift card number is rapidly increasing. The median amount defrauded by these methods is $2,500 in 2020. This amount is equivalent to more than 10 times the amount of damage from other scams, and romance phishing is said to be a fraud with a particularly large amount of damage.
Victims of all age groups are seeing an increase in damage, but the 20-29 age group ranks first in terms of the increase rate. In this age group, the number of victims doubled from 2019 to 2020. On the other hand, when looking at the number of pure damages, those aged 40 to 69 take the first place. In terms of damages, those aged 70 and over ranked first, with the median damage over the age of 70 reaching $9,475.
The FTC also explains how to avoid romance phishing. 4 things to watch out for when looking for people while avoiding online scammers. The first is that even if the other party has sent money first, do not remit money and give things to people you have never met in person. The second thing is to listen to friends and family who are worried about dating online. The third is to point out whether there are contradictory answers while asking a question. The last thing to do is to search for the photo used in your profile. If the person in the search results is someone else, it’s definitely a scam. It’s also worth noting that you may need to be careful when using dating apps. Related information can be found here.