More and more people are falling victim to romance scams; where they lend supposed “romantic partners” money or worse act as a “money mule”, allowing the fraudster to funnel fraudulent money through their bank account. Let’s breakdown what these scams are and how they evolve. Romance scammers create fake profiles on dating sites, apps, and social media to contact their targets. The scammers then strike up a relationship with their targets to build their trust, sometimes talking or chatting several times a day. Then, they make up a story and ask for money or suggest they give you money followed by instructions on how to spend that money once received. This is a major red flag!
Recently, massive fraud against state unemployment insurance programs was committed by using victims of online romance scams. Victims have been convinced they need to provide their account information to help their “romantic partner”.
Once these criminals have account information, they submit fraudulent unemployment benefits claims and direct these funds to the victim’s bank account. Essentially, using the victim to funnel the fraudulent money through their bank account.
Often times, victims have no idea funds deposited are a result of fraudulent criminal activity. However, they often later admit they had a feeling something “didn’t feel right”. If you suspect you are a victim of a romance scam, stop communicating with the person immediately and report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint and notify HAPO. This is a difficult situation to navigate, especially when love is involved. You may feel embarrassed, ashamed or too emotionally invested to ask for help. Please know that HAPO is here for you and you are not alone. We can offer advice, tools and support to protect your accounts and help you move forward.
Here’s the bottom line:
Never send money or provide your account information to a friend or romantic partner, especially those you’ve only met online. Criminals are good at conning people out of money. Don’t do it! You could lose money and may be responsible for participating in criminal activity.