If your Valentine’s Day was romantic or even if it was just another day, you may consider yourself lucky. So-called “fauxmances” are becoming an increasing problem for those seeking love online. What begins with romantic overtures sooner or later turns to demands for money. Indeed, in 2017, Americans lost $143 million to romance scams, with each incident resulting in an average loss of $2,600.
The fauxmancers also prey on older people, with victims over the age of 70 losing an average of $10,000 according to the Federal Trade Commission in the US. The Better Business Bureau estimates that since 2015, U.S. and Canadian victims’ romance scam losses have reached nearly $1 billion. The UK’s Action Fraud says that, in 2018, British victims filed 4,555 romance fraud reports, claiming total losses of more than £50 million.
So how does it work?
Such “fauxmances” often take the form of fraudster Romeos and Juliets, many of whom operate from West Africa or Eastern Europe. Email security firm Agari, based in San Mateo, California, says names commonly assumed by scammers include Laura Cahill, Britney Parkwell, Lisa Frankel and U.S. Army Captain Starling Michael.
Romance scams typically start with the promise of companionship or romance, always leading to a demand for one thing. “We’re talking about people you meet online, who lavish you with attention … and then ask for money,” the FTC says in a romance scam advisory. “Usually they want the money by wire transfer or gift card. They might claim they need it for a medical emergency or to come visit you. Then they take your money, but there’s no surgery and no trip,” only heartache.
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