SALT LAKE CITY — A new report from the Better Business Bureau finds that online romance scams can escalate beyond typical scams — escalating to a point where victims may even become "money mules."
The BBB issued an in-depth investigative study on romance scams in February 2018. Romance scammers typically contact victims through dating websites, apps or social media, grooming their victims and building what appears to be a loving relationship before asking for money for an emergency or to handle travel expenses.
The report found that, in addition to this type of financial damage, 20-30 percent of victims — thousands of people — were also used as "money mules" in 2018 alone.
Money mules act as middlemen in various scams — they launder money from other victims be receiving money or goods purchased with stolen credit cards and sending them on to scammers, often out of the country.
Beyond financial damage, victims become so entangled in scams that they may be prosecuted, facing jail time and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and restitution payments.
The report offered a handful of recommendations to people who think they or someone they know might be involved in a romance scam:
- Warn people about romance fraud before they invest in an online relationship (and exercise caution in your own online dating life)
- Seek out victim support groups
- Report fraud to the Federal Trade Commission, the Internet Crime Complaint Center or the Senate Aging Committee Fraud Hotline
For more information, read the full press release here.