Romance Scams Soar as Victims Become Unwitting Money Mules
The FBI has issued an alert about the rise of romance and confidence scams that involve attempts by cyber criminals to gain the trust of a victim in order to manipulate them into sending money and becoming unwitting money mules. Between 2017 and 2018, losses from these scams surged by 71% from $211m to $362m, with the number of victims rising from 15,000 to 18,000.
Scammers often target people in North America or Europe through dating apps, claiming to be a US/European citizen living abroad. They engage with the victim in order to gain their trust and eventually ask them for money, often with the excuse that they’ll use it to buy a plane ticket for a journey to the victim. They also try to get victims to open bank accounts in their name, or even to register a company. This enables scammers to launder money.