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Online romance scams hit record losses of $956 million in 2021

Romance fraudsters find new twist to trick targets
Romance rip offs hit record losses of $956 million in 2021
Posted at 3:17 PM, Apr 27, 2022

TAMPA, Fla. — Typically romance scams target social media users. However, in recent months, people across the country report a con that begins with a mysterious text from an unknown number.

The sender often, like in Sadie Roussell’s case, sends a picture of an attractive woman and pretends to have some sort of connection to the targeted receiver.

“It asked if I was 'Ivan,' they said their name was Veda and said we matched on Bumble," Roussell said. "But, I never had Bumble so I already knew that it wasn't me."

Another man, Cliff Pierre, told ABC Action News an unknown sender texted him the same selfie of a pretty young woman.

“I didn't want to do anything about it because I know that sort of thing can be dangerous,” Pierre said.

FBI Special Agent Daniel Sirmons said the bureau is seeing a huge spike in reports involving these texts. They attempt to either lure targets into exchanging inappropriate photos or giving out personal information.

“Essentially, they are trying to make you a victim one way or another,” Agent Sirmons said.

Roussell said she quit engaging with her texter even though they kept trying to contact her. Pierre said he blocked the number after a Google search turned up the same photo he’d been sent.

The FBI advises consumers to delete and or block these texts.

In 2021 IC3, the FBI’s online reporting site, received complaints from 24,299 romance scam victims totaling a record $956 million in losses. It is the third costliest fraud in the country.