"Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds." So said no less an expert than William Shakespeare. It is perhaps this belief which led consumers to throw $547 million to their imagined true loves in 2021, even after the first signs of alteration.
That's a lot of shattered hearts and drained bank accounts – 80 percent more than the previous year, according to the Federal Trade Commission, which counts not rosebuds but consumer complaints.
The problem, beyond the human need for love and companionship, is that too many Americans are, so to speak, looking for love in all the wrong places – mostly dating apps and social media.
"The course of true love never did run smooth." - William Shakespeare
The general pattern is that the false lover swipes photographs of attractive strangers from the internet, then uses those photos to build a false identity which is used to attract potential suitors, just as a flower uses its aroma to lure honeybees.
But while the flower usually lives up to its promise, the false lovers do not. Instead, after virtually wooing their victim, they make up a personal emergency of some sort – a sick child, a busted car, an old debt – and ask their lovesick suitor to wire, Venmo or Zelle them some funds or throw a few gift cards or Bitcoins threir way.
The scammers gather their rosebuds while they may, then quickly move on once they have drained the victim of their available cash. The losses add up and many people lose thousands of dollars before they realize that while love may be blind, con artists have very sharp vision.
The median loss, sad to say, is $2,400, according to the FTC. Median Bitcoin losses were higher, nearly $10,000.
"True love is like ghosts, which everyone talks about and few have seen." - Francois de La Rochefoucauld
What to do
What's a lovesick consumer to do? Loneliness and longing are powerful emotions and not to be trifled with. But the FTC has some down-to-earth suggestions to avoid falling into a Venus flytrap. Among them:
If you suspect a romance scam ...
- Stop communicating with the person immediately.
- Talk to someone you trust, and pay attention if your friends or family say they’re concerned about your new love interest.
- Do a search for the type of job the person has to see if other people have heard similar stories. For example, you could do a search for “oil rig scammer” or “US Army scammer.”
- Do a reverse image search of the person’ profile picture to see if it’s associated with another name or with details that don’t match up – those are signs of a scam.
There's lots more on the FTC site but what it all comes down to is summed up in a hit song from a few decades ago.
"Love the one you're with." - Stephen Stills