Updated Jan 27, 2022 - Technology

Pandemic gave cover to online dating scams

Illustration of a broken heart being held together by an ethernet cord

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Crooked Casanovas used online dating scams to steal an estimated $500 million from lonely victims last year, according to a new analysis of government fraud data by Atlas VPN, an internet security provider.

Why it matters: The isolation of the lingering pandemic provided cover to fraudulent suitors who had an excuse for not meeting up in person even as they fleeced their would-be lovers out of gift cards, money — even cryptocurrency.

Details: Romance impersonators cheated potential mates out of more than $343 million in the first three quarters of 2021, according to Atlas VPN.

  • The company analyzed fraud data reported to the Federal Trade Commission and saw a sharp spike during the pandemic.
  • Seniors aged 60-69 were most vulnerable, but younger people also fell victim to impersonator scams on dating sites and social media platforms.

The big picture: People have grown lonelier as the pandemic has dragged on.

  • A survey of 11,000 Medicare beneficiaries found that 40% said they felt less socially connected to family and friends than they did in November 2020.
  • 38% said they were more stressed or anxious, and 22% said they felt more lonely or depressed.

The bottom line: As people's well-being has declined, they have become more vulnerable to romance scams.

  • The best advice: don't send money to people you haven't met.
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