The FBI says romance scammers ripped off about $1 billion from would-be U.S. lovers in 2021, up from $600 million the year before. It was the third highest total of scam losses reported by the FBI in 2021, behind email account scams of $2.4 billion and investment fraud of $1.5 billion, reports Stateline. The FBI reported that the scammers use the illusion of a romantic relationship to get into the heads of their victims and earn their trust before asking for money. Sometimes this happens in a few months. Other times it takes longer. The bottom line is that these fake lovers are willing to invest time and energy in grooming their marks because the payoff may be worth it. State attorneys general say they’re seeing a rise in romance scams, partially due to the isolation brought on during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
One example: Jeanne Aikens was a widow in her late 60s when she thought she found a new love. Aikens had nursed her husband through Parkinson’s disease until his death. A nursing manager at Boston Children’s Hospital, she met “Logan” through a dating site in 2018 and found they had a shared interest in running for fitness. They became friendly online, through text messages and phone calls. “Logan” professed his love for her, and they planned to meet in Boston, not far from her New Hampshire home. First, he needed money. Spinning a tale of delays in Great Britain on a work trip and needing cash, he persuaded Aikens to wire him money several times—eventually totaling $200,000. Her family tried to warn her, her banker questioned the withdrawals, a co-worker was aghast, but Aikens stood by her love. Eventually, the plot unraveled, leaving Aikens embarrassed, ashamed and poorer. She hopes by telling her story she can help others avoid similar circumstances. Her scammer was unmasked when the police chief in her small New Hampshire town of Fremont knocked on her door with a picture of “Logan,” which turned out to have been ripped off from someone else’s Facebook page. “Logan” was never found.