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Romance Scams Explode, Leaving Broken Hearts and Millions Lost

The pandemic led to a boom in dating fraud. Banks and wealth managers are rushing to keep up.

Rebecca Rosebrough lost about $24,000 after being scammed by a man she met on Facebook five years ago. More than 95,000 people in the US reported fraud initiated on social-media platforms in 2021, with losses totaling about $770 million.

Rebecca Rosebrough lost about $24,000 after being scammed by a man she met on Facebook five years ago. More than 95,000 people in the US reported fraud initiated on social-media platforms in 2021, with losses totaling about $770 million.

Photographer: Saul Martinez/Bloomberg

It’s an age-old tale: love gone wrong, a jilted partner left in the lurch. Only now, the story is colliding with the very modern phenomenon of online fraud.

Digital romance scams have surged over the past two years, leading to millions of dollars in losses for people who were wooed and then duped out of money. While con artists have long been a part of life on the internet, experts say the trend exploded as Covid-19 lockdowns created the perfect opportunity for swindlers seeking lonely targets.