Love in the age of internet scams

CHICO — After a couple of years of contending with the vast loneliness the COVID-19 pandemic brought, it’s entirely fair to want to jump back into normalcy wherever possible.

For many of us, that might mean taking a dive back into the dating world. Dating apps and other online romance destinations, while convenient in the age of extremely contagious new viruses, don’t come without some caveats. If you read this column, you know where I’m going with this.

Fake profiles absolutely litter places like Tinder as well as other forms of internet dating. And the sad part is that they work.

The Federal Trade Commission reported these types of romance scams led to a whopping $304 million in losses in 2020. Like I said, vast loneliness.

While it’s easy to point the finger at dating apps, romance scams are often initiated through other forms of social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Google Hangouts.

According to a warning by the Federal Trade Commission, scammers try to maintain a consistent relationship with the target. Where fake profiles on dating apps tend to be run by bots, and often have telltale signs displayed front and center, it can be harder to tell when you’re dealing with an actual human what is real and what isn’t. The scammer in question could do a great job of keeping conversations going and playing the role of an interested companion.

That said, sooner or later the other shoe drops and the person will throw a sob story at the target and ask for money.

The commission provided a few examples of common lies such as the scammer saying they work on an oil rig, they’re in the military or they are a doctor with an international organization and they need money for travel, surgery or paying off gambling debts.

As always, don’t hand over information or money to people you haven’t met or confirmed the identity of, and even then maybe keep it to close family or friends. This includes banking information and social security numbers.

Real or not, no romance is worth $304 million.

Scam of the Week generally runs every Tuesday. Readers are welcome to contact reporter Jake Hutchison to report scams and potential scams they have come in contact with by calling 828-1329 or via email at jhutchison@chicoer.com.

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