Romance scams are on the rise: Here’s how you can avoid them

BOISE, ID. — The Idaho Department of Finance wants you to be safe out on the web.

Officials are warning consumers to look out for romance scams as more people are reporting them across North America. According to 2022 data from the Federal Trade Commission, in 2021, people lost $547 million to romance scams, including catfishing scams.

Scammers normally set up a fake user profile after researching the target’s interests, relationships and contacts, making them look credible and trustworthy. After “creating a relationship,” the scammer will then look to take money from the victim or use them for other financial harm. Some romance scams can also lead to other forms of fraud.

“Perpetrators of romance scams are particularly deceitful as they seek to prey on the vulnerabilities of individuals seeking genuine companionship,” said Patricia Perkins, Director of the Idaho Department of Finance. “A general awareness of the red flags associated with these scams may aid Idaho consumers in protecting themselves and their loved ones from falling victim.”

Here are some ways the Idaho Department of Defense says you can protect yourself from these scams.

Don’t trust, verify!

Do online searches to get a better idea of who the person you are dealing with is and what they do. Most people have an online presence these days, which includes personal and professional information. Fake online profiles tend to lack information about an individual, and the images used in an activity feed may feel impersonal or staged. Scammers often use stolen images from real people or stock images, so it’s good to do online image searches to check the origin and use of the image.

Keep your guard up.

If a new romantic interest suddenly starts asking for money or encourages you to start investing, be cautious. Do not send money to anyone you have not met in person and be cautious about sharing personal or financial information.

Beware if the individual quickly asks you to leave a dating service or social media site to communicate directly.

Be careful what you post and make public online.

Scammers can use details shared on social media and dating sites to better understand and target you.

Beware if the individual promises to meet in person but then always comes up with an excuse for why he or she can’t.

If you haven’t met the person after a few months, for whatever reason, you have good reason to be suspicious.

Research websites and apps.

Scammers create a custom online platform and direct you to it in order to take your money and hide from authorities. Building a custom app or website that can accept money or crypto assets is surprisingly easy.

If a person encourages you to invest and recommends an investing website or app, make sure it is registered to do business in your state or province before investing. When dealing with registered investing platforms, do business directly with the platform, and don’t allow someone to act as an intermediary.

Look for red flags.

Scammers might attempt to make the investment look safe by convincing you that they are investing and taking risks too. Alternatively, they may say the investment is low risk or no risk while offering guarantees that your money will be safe. This is a red flag of investment fraud.

Check registration.

Firms that provide investment advisory services in the U.S. are typically registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or one or more state securities regulators. To verify the licensing status of an investment professional in Idaho, visit the Department website at

Do not transfer money to unknown people or intermediaries.

If you need to use a third party to send money, use a licensed money transmitter. To verify the licensing status of a money transmitter, visit the Department website,

You can keep copies of all communications with scammers and report them to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center and the Federal Trade Commission.

It’s important to be as safe as possible when you’re on the internet.