GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Valentine’s Day may have online romance heating up, but not in a good way.
The Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan is warning about the growing number of online romance scams.
The confirmation from the other side of the computer screen may feel good, especially the attention. But when one Kent County woman believed there could be love in all the typing, she fell victim to a romance scam.
“There were a lot of romantic communications between the two. He made a lot of promises to come visit her in Grand Rapids,” said Kent County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Joel Roon, explaining that the victim ended up dealing with fraudulent merchandise. “She did all of his dirty work.”
Victims become “money mules” or financial middlemen in a variety of scams where they hope to help their online love – who’s really just a scam artist. A new Better Business Bureau report shows 20 percent to 30 percent of romance scam victims were used as money mules with the victims numbering in the thousands last year.
“The prevalence of online dating and people looking for love online has really made it profitable for scammers to go after people,” said Troy Baker with the BBB Serving Western Michigan.
The number of romance scam complaints to the Federal Trade Commission doubled between 2015 to 2018. In 2018 alone, the FTC received 21,000 complaints with losses of $143 million.