1. Romance scams
How they work: A scammer — perhaps pretending to be someone living overseas or working in a remote location — strikes up a relationship with you online. This can happen via email or through a dating or social media app or site. They may try to legitimize the relationship by sending you flowers or other gifts (likely paid for with a stolen credit card). Usually, scammers take their time to build up a relationship. Only after gaining your trust will they ask you to send them a gift card or to wire cash, claiming that it’s to pay for a plane ticket, surgery or customs fees.
There has been a significant uptick in romance scams in the past year, in part because people are more isolated during the pandemic and spending more time online. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that victims of online dating scams lost $304 million in 2020, up 400% from 2016. “Romance scams are really serious, because they’re preying on people who are almost willing to do anything in certain circumstances,” says Stacie Purcell, Senior Vice President of Retail Consumer and Commercial Fraud Policy at Citi.