Love Fraud scammers use social media to identify and trick women into believing they are in meaningful long-distance relationships and then drain them of their money. In Oklahoma, the average victim lost over $80,000 last year. Victims often spend down their retirement savings, mortgage their homes, borrow from family and friends to send money to scammers before realizing they've been hoodwinked. Victims are put at further risk of follow-up scams including recovery scams and/or are tricked into committing crimes, like becoming money mules, thereby exposing these unsuspecting women to severe criminal penalties while the scammers proliferate freely.
According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), which provides the public with a means of reporting Internet-facilitated crimes, Love Fraud—also called confidence fraud—result in the highest amount of financial losses to victims when compared to other online crimes. In 2016, almost 15,000 complaints categorized as romance scams or confidence fraud were reported to IC3 (nearly 2,500 more than the previous year), and the losses associated with those complaints exceeded $230 million. The states with the highest numbers of victims were California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania. In Texas last year, the IC3 received more than 1,000 complaints from victims reporting more than $16 million in losses related to romance scams.
Love Fraud is a fast-growing crime:
In the first half of 2018, according to Hong Kong police figures—there was a more than 40% increase over the number of romance scam cases recorded in the whole of 2017, with over 90% of the victims (link in Chinese) women.
Like anywhere else, the victims of romance scams in Hong Kong are typically women in their 40s and above, and those who are, as the FBI warned, “emotionally vulnerable” like widows and divorcees. There’s another complication that may make women in Hong Kong more susceptible to such frauds—there are far more women than men, leaving many women desperate to meet a partner in a society where familial pressure for women to get married is still strong.