IRS warns of romance scams

IRS warns of romance scams

By Greg Collier

When many people think of the Internal Revenue Service, they only think of having to pay their income tax to the government. However, the IRS also has a Criminal Investigation Office. These are the federal agents tasked with going after scammers and scam rings. Recently, the IRS sounded the alarm on romance scams after a Federal Trade Commission report said that over 70,000 people lost a combined total of $1.3 billion in 2022. And those are only the ones the government knows about. Many romance scam victims never come forward out of embarrassment.

If you’re unfamiliar with romance scams, they mostly target women, but it’s not unheard of for men to be victims as well. Romance scammers also tend to target the elderly as well, but anyone of any age can be a victim.

These scammers largely find their victims on social media, dating platforms, and sometimes online games. Romance scammers are very patient and will trick their victims into believing that they’re in a real relationship. More often than not, the scammers will pose as someone living or working overseas. The victims will experience a process known as ‘love bombing’ where the scammer will dote on their victims with little romantic touches.

These relationships will be cultivated by the scammers for months before they finally approach their victims for money. The scammer will usually have a story about how some kind of emergency has come up, and since they’re overseas, they can’t access their own money. Or they’ll claim they need the money as part of an investment in their business. All the while, the scammers will promise their victims they’ll repay the money when they finally meet in person.

Except, romance scammers will never meet their victims in person. Often these scammers use someone else’s identity that they found online. They’ll use pictures of other people they stole from social media, and even use that person’s name in their scam. But, they’ll continue to ask for money until the victim is either broke or finally catches on to the scam.

Here are some recommendations from the IRS to help you steer clear of falling prey to romance scams. Refrain from sending money to individuals you’ve only interacted with online or via phone. Exercise caution when sharing information publicly on the internet. Approach new relationships with a deliberate pace and ask probing questions. Stay vigilant if someone appears too flawless or hastily urges you to transition from a dating service or social media platform to alternative means of communication. Be wary of individuals attempting to isolate you from your circle of friends and family. Avoid sharing inappropriate images or financial details that could potentially be exploited for extortion. And lastly, exercise suspicion if promises of an in-person meeting are made but never materialize.