Sweetheart Scammers Stole $14.4 Million from Pennsylvanians Last Year. Here’s How They Did It.

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By Patrick Berkery

June 7, 2023

More than 600 Pennsylvanians lost an average of $24,000 to online romance scammers in 2022.

Most of us know enough not to engage someone who has initiated contact through a dating app or social media site, seeking money, gifts, or personal information.

Unfortunately, some do fall for these romance scams, which typically involve claims by the scammer of being sick, hurt or in jail, or a promise to teach you how to invest.

According to Social Catfish, an online service where you can verify your date’s identity, there were 602 victims of romance scams in Pennsylvania last year. On average, Pennsylvania victims were conned out of $23,929, and the scammers got away with a total of $14.4 million. That makes our state number 14 out of 50 for the most “Money Lost to Romance Scams in 2022.” 

The good news? That total represents a 50% decrease since 2021. 

California was the most-scammed state in 2022, with 2,189 victims losing a total of $158.1 million. Texas was second, with 1,331 victims coughing up $60.3 million to romance scammers.

What is a Romance Scam? 

The FBI defines a romance scammer as someone who lies about their identity online and then quickly establishes a close relationship with their potential victim. In order to get their victim to trust them they will seem caring, genuine, and even infatuated with that person. Within a short time frame they could string along the idea of building a future, or getting married, and then they will eventually ask for money. 

This may seem like an easy to spot tactic, but the FBI makes it clear that these people are very good at what they do. They manipulate people for a living and $14.4 million in one state in one year proves it. 

How to Spot a Romance Scammer:

Sweetheart Scammers Stole $14.4 Million from Pennsylvanians Last Year. Here’s How They Did It.
  • According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are scammers on most online dating and social media platforms. You may be looking for love and fall into a trap, or you could receive an unexpected message from someone with ill intent. 
  • The con artists will often create a fake job that makes it easier to convince their victim to send them money while also providing a reason that they can’t meet in person.  
  • Some of the most common lies are that they are overseas on a business project or in the military, giving them an easy segue into asking for money to cover “medical expenses” or getting them out of unexpected trouble. 



Business Overseas

Construction Industry

Offshore Oil Rig Worker

Celebrity or Social Media Influencer

  • Claiming they made it big by investing in cryptocurrency is a common lie. They will tell you they want to help you make money, have you send them some to “invest” but keep it for themselves. 
  • Be careful of sending explicit pictures to anyone – in romance scams they are often used to extort money from the victim. 
  • Romance scammers will most often ask you to send money via gift card but the most costly losses are through cryptocurrency or bank wire transfers. 
Sweetheart Scammers Stole $14.4 Million from Pennsylvanians Last Year. Here’s How They Did It.

What to Do If You’re the Victim of a Romance Scam: 

Report it to your local law enforcement agency, the Federal Trade Commission, and if you are being extorted go to the FBI. 

Alert the social media site where they contacted you. 

If you paid the scammer through a wire transfer, gift card, credit or debit card, or crypto currency, contact your bank or the company and ask for a refund. 

Protect your identity by changing your passwords and setting up two-factor authentication for online accounts. Secure and monitor your bank accounts and credit. 

Be cautious of future scams. The person who scammed you or their network may approach you in a different way. 


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