Breaking Up with Romance Scams in 2021

by Sheryl Harris , Director, Department of Consumer Affairs

hand holding flowersMany people who lose money to romance scams feel like they’re all alone, but last year, romance scams made it onto Consumer Affairs’ Top 10 Scams list.

Romance scams didn’t always start on dating sites. Many people report they got pulled into a scam when a stranger on a social media site like Facebook struck up a flirtation that seemed harmless but led to losses in the thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars.

Here are a few tips to help you spot romance scams:

  • Your love interest asks or encourages you to send money. Romance scammers may start by asking for a small gift to “test” your willingness to part with cash. But eventually, he or she spins hard-luck stories designed to win your sympathy and get you to send large amounts.
  • Your love interest connects you with an "investment" opportunity that requires you to make continuing payments.
  • Your online boyfriend or girlfriend asks you to receive and send mail or packages on his/her behalf. Romance scammers sometimes use victims as “money mules” to scam others.
  • Romance scammers often claim to be Americans working overseas (i.e., in the military or as relief workers). Read this romance scam advisory from the U.S. Army Investigative Command.
  • You have a few small doubts, which you try very hard to shrug off, because your online beau’s stories have holes or inconsistencies. Trust your gut.
  • Family or friends tell you they’re worried about you and your relationship. (Sometimes they have the emotional distance to see things you can’t.)

If you suspect that you or someone you care about is involved in a romance scam, please contact the Department of Consumer Affairs by calling 216-443-7035 or filing a scam report at

Subscribe to our Newsletter!
Read more stories like this in your inbox by subscribing to the County News Now Newsletter!