DISB Consumer Alert
Beware of Romance Scams
The District of Columbia Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking (DISB) is warning District residents to be on the alert for romance scams.
Stay Vigilant About Romance Scams
It’s February. Valentine’s Day is near. And love is in the air!
Millions of people every year use dating apps or social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and many others) to make a connection and find love. But sometimes, they end up instead with a broken heart and an empty wallet. Romance scams, also known as online dating scams, are among the most common scams on the internet. Romance scams, nationwide, represent the second highest dollar loss when it comes to types of fraud. In 2022, 37 District residents reported being the victims of romance scams, with an estimated total loss of nearly $4,550,000. Many people who experienced romance scams were contacted on a dating app. However, you don’t have to be looking for love to be courted by a romance scammer.
Among a sea of potential partners are scammers who gain your trust over several months. They steal your hard-earned money or even your identity by obtaining your personally identifiable information. Often, romance scammers will continue the act for years, stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from their victims. They are also masters of disguise. Some create online profiles with attractive photographs taken randomly from the web. Sometimes, they assume the identities of real people. Scammers may study the information people share online and then pretend to have common interests. The details they share about themselves will usually include built-in excuses for not meeting in person. Some common examples of meeting avoidance are overseas service in the military, work in foreign countries, and work on offshore oil rigs.
How to Recognize Online Romance Scams
- Beware of individuals who make excuses about why they can’t meet in person or refuse to speak via video chat.
- Beware of unknown people who request that you send or wire them money or cryptocurrency, or ask you to purchase gift cards and provide them with the numbers online.
- Be skeptical of a person who professes their love and/or strong feelings in a short time period. If requested, never send or forward money to someone you haven’t met in person and don’t act on their investment advice.
- Beware of a person whose online dating profile does not match their conversation with you.
- Beware of a person who requests that you start communicating by text, phone or personal email instead of via the original website or platform.
If you suspect that you are an unwitting victim of a romance scam, do the following immediately:
- Talk to family members or trusted friends about a new love interest to get additional feedback.
- Deliberately slow down all activities with the scammer.
- Stop and discontinue all communications with the romance scammer – including online chats, texting and telephone calls.
- Do not be pressured or intimidated into doing anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, including sending money or anything of value to the romance scammer.
- Do not be threatened directly or indirectly into making financial decisions.
- Do not attempt to provoke, challenge or threaten the romance scammer.
Each year, thousands of romance scams go unreported by victims. If you are the victim of a romance scam, you should report it to the DISB Enforcement and Consumer Protection Division at 202-727-8000 or one of the following government agencies:
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3.gov) or call the FBI Washington Field Office at 202-278-2000
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC)–ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
Our mission is three-fold: (1) cultivate a regulatory environment that protects consumers and attracts and retains financial services firms to the District; (2) empower and educate residents and (3) support the development and expansion of business.