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First National Bank warns: Be aware of romance scams, they accounted for a record $304 million in losses last year

posted on Monday, February 22, 2021 in Security & Fraud Information

First National Bank in Creston, Afton and Shenandoah warns this month about another major scam we’re seeing locally and statewide: The Romance Scam.

This month, the US Federal Trade Commission reported that total losses due to romance scams are estimated at $304 million for 2020, up 50 percent from 2019, with an average loss of $2,500 per individual last year in the United States.

Julie Lanning mug“Social distancing and being apart from friends and family has isolated all of us,” said Julie Lanning, vice president at First National Bank in Creston. “Scammers are taking advantage of this loneliness to trick people out of their money.”

Lanning said a romance scam is when a new love interest tricks you into falling for them when they really just want your money. Romance scams start in a few different ways, but usually online. For example, you may receive a friend request, follower request or direct message on a social media site or maybe the connection happens through a dating app. Some scammers will even email or text message you directly.

“Once the connection is made, your new love interest seems like a perfect match,” said Barb Wittstock, customers service representative at First National Bank in Creston. “It may even appear like they share your interests – but those photos and interest are all too often fake.”

Usually romance scammers spend time getting to know you and developing trust before they ask for a loan or access to your finances. Then when the time is right, they make up a tragic story or emergency reason for why they need the money – and promise to pay you back.

Chantel Kljech mug“The important thing is to never send money, gift cards or wire transfers to a sweetheart you haven’t met in person,” Wittstock said. “And never share personal information like bank account information or online banking credentials, credit cards or a Social Security number with a new love connection you’ve never met.”

The Federal Trade Commission reports all age groups were targeted last year, not just the elderly. Victims aged 40 to 69 were targeted the most, victims aged above 70 reported the highest average losses.

Again, First National Bank reiterates the important takeaway is to never give money or personal information to any love connection you’ve never met in person. If you think you are the target of this scam or any scam, please consult with trusted friends and family or call our bank at 877-782-2195. Member FDIC. 

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