As we celebrate the month of love, this February, reports have come out showing that more than 21,000 Americans reported falling for romance-related scams in 2018, losing a total of $143 million and making it the most common type of consumer-facing fraud in the last year.

Romance-related schemes involve an alleged scammer setting up a fake personal profile on social media or dating websites to woo potential victims.

Scammers then ask their smitten targets to send them money for fake emergencies or other major expenses; they typically ask for the money through gift cards and other reloadable cards, which are quicker, more anonymous than other forms of payments and harder to reverse.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said it received more reports of “romance scams” than other consumer-facing fraud last year and that schemes involving dating or courtship are quickly rising in popularity.

The agency also said that reports of romance-related scams jumped from 8,500 in 2015 to more than 21,000 in 2018, with the total cost rising from $33 million to $143 million in the same time.

Such scams primarily target Americans ages 40 to 69, who fall victim to romantic schemes twice as often consumers in their 20s, according to the FTC. Older victims also lost the most money, reporting a median loss of $10,000 from romantic scams.

We do not have similar reacher or access to statistics on the crime rate for related crimes in Kenya but it would be interesting to see how cybercrime and computer related crimes have evolved globally as well as in Kenya with increased Internet penetration and enhanced digital literacy.

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