Romance scams cost Americans almost $350 million in 2021

Edward G. | January 20, 2022

Impersonators found the pandemic to be a treat - they have a legitimate excuse as to why they can not meet up in person, at least for now. This allowed fraudsters to carry out romance scams on a larger scale than ever before.

Atlas VPN analysis reveals that heartbroken victims lost upwards of $343 million in the first three quarters of 2021.

As of yet, there is no data for Q4 2021. Based on the information that we do have, it is safe to assume that romance scams caused somewhere around $500 million in damages throughout the entire year.

The figures for the research were extracted from the official Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) website. Here, romance scam victims can submit their complaints and receive further help.

By glancing at the chart below, readers can clearly see that in six out of seven age groups, the losses to romance scams surpass those of 2020, even though we are comparing the first three quarters of 2021 to the entire 2020.

In 2020, impersonators swindled $268 million from victims of all age groups. In Q1/Q3 2021, monetary damages exceeded $342 million, representing a 27.7% growth.

Perhaps the most surprising finding is that elders ages 60-69 lost significantly more money than all other groups in 2020 and 2021. This was the case in 2019, as well.

Romance scam losses among older individuals (ages 60 and over) climbed from roughly $84 million in 2019 to around $139 million in 2020. The 60-69 and 70-79 age groups were hit the heaviest among older persons, accounting for $129 million of the total reported losses in 2020.

Cumulative losses of $129 million in 2020 and $145 million in Q1/Q3 2021 also mean that romance scams were the most financially damaging fraud category for seniors.

However, younger Americans are not immune to romantic impersonators, far from it.

Individuals ages 20-59 lost $130 million in 2020 and $187 million in Q1/Q3 2021, a growth of 44% even without the data on losses in Q4.

In short, all age groups are struggling with impersonator scams on dating sites or other social media platforms. Can we find the leading cause behind the upsurge in heartbreaks?

2021 is one of the loneliest years

For those who have been monitoring their emotional health, it might be obvious why there is a rise in romantic scams.

People did not get used to being alone during 2020. On the contrary, people report that 2021 was even worse than 2020 in terms of their well-being.

According to newly disclosed statistics from a recent government telephone survey of 11,000 Medicare members, 40% said they felt less socially connected to family and friends than they did in November 2020. Moreover, 28% of respondents said they were more stressed or anxious, and 22% said they felt lonely or depressed.

Telling people to avoid online dating in times of isolation is not going to work. However, all of us can do our best to educate ourselves and others about the dangers that lurk online.

Having a single core principle of not sending money to anyone you have not met in person will keep most of the troubles away. If your romantic interest shows a negative reaction towards this principle - that’s a huge red flag.

Another dead giveaway is when someone asks for money via gift cards, money transfers, or even worse - cryptocurrency. All of these are virtually untraceable, which makes them popular amongst impersonators.

In short - building relationships online is a wonderful way to stay connected. Our advice is to keep your heart open, but your wallet closed at least until you meet them in person.

Edward G.

Edward G.

Cybersecurity Researcher and Publisher at Atlas VPN. My mission is to scan the ever-evolving cybercrime landscape to inform the public about the latest threats.



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