Letitia James warns of rise in 'romance scams'

By Jen Krausz on
 June 10, 2024

New York Attorney General Letitia James is warning of a rise in "romance scams," where scammers pretend to engage in an online romance with victims to get money and gifts from them.

Using dating apps, social media and unsolicited text messages, these fraudsters get people to make investments, often into cryptocurrency, and then steal the money.

The practice is known as "butchering pigs" because the scammers fatten them up with flattery and elaborate stories before butchering them financially.

Victims can be male or female, but James has a message for them all.

"Not alone"

“New Yorkers who fall victim to these frauds should know they are not alone,” she said.

A spokesperson for her office said that two-thirds of cryptocurrency complaints they get are related to the scam, but would not reveal exactly how many people have gotten scammed in this way.

Some of the scammers have taken $1 million from a single victim, however.

Crypto fraud is a $75 billion-dollar global industry, but the security of blockchain has made it difficult to catch fraudsters.

Victims are made to feel they are in a romantic relationship or friendship, even though they have never met in person. The actual investments take place over WeChat or WhatsApp for anonymity.

Two Chinese nationals were charged in May with taking $73 million from a series of victims, James said.

Red flags

The FBI said that romance scammers will come across as genuine, and they are present on all dating and social media sites.

Red flags to watch for are people saying they want to meet in person, but not actually doing so. They will then ask for money or for the target to invest with them in something.

Another red flag is when the scammer asks for your bank account information in order to receive money or invest.

Often, the scammer will say they are outside the U.S. to avoid meeting up. They may say they have a medical or other emergency.

Some good steps to take are researching the person's profile to see if they have interacted with others and what those have been, asking a lot of questions, and refusing to communicate on a direct site rather than the dating site.

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