Romance scams most frequent in DC — here’s how to defend yourself

Bryan Lewis, a fraud expert, tells WTOP's Anne Kramer that D.C. ranks #1 for romance scams in the U.S.

With Valentine’s Day approaching, many hopeless romantics might be in the mood for love — but romance robbers may be in the mood to exploit their next victims.

Romance scams happen most frequently in D.C., with the District ranking first on the list of states with the highest rate of romance scams per 100,000 people at 37.36, according to a Comparitech report. And Maryland ranked third on the list at 31.20 romance scams per 100,000 people.

A romance scam, also known as a dating scam or a catfishing scam, is a type of fraud in which scammers use fake identities to dupe victims into romantic relationships with the intention of obtaining money or other valuable items from them.

Bryan Lewis, CEO of the identity verification company Intellicheck, said it’s a “very common scam.”

He said Tuesday’s lovey-dovey holiday is a time when people are particularly vulnerable to romance scams, which cost almost 73,000 Americans more than $1 billion total in 2022.

Scammers often target people on dating and social media sites, Lewis said.

“[Scammers] prey on loneliness … and how much people put on social media,” Lewis told WTOP. “That’s what makes it so easy for them to target you.”

For any person who feels they may be a victim, the FBI offers a slew of tips to defend against romance scammers.

  • Go slow and ask questions.
  • Stop all contact immediately if you feel you are being scammed.
  • Never send money or share your Social Security Number or other personally identifiable information with any person you have not met.
  • Use online search tools to look up the person’s photo. Comparitech suggests using Google’s reverse image search function.
  • Be careful what you post and make public online. Scammers often use this information to better understand and target you.

According to Lewis, scammers will use a variety of excuses to get their hands on your money.

“They’re gonna say, ‘[I have a] family issue,’ ‘I’ve been arrested,’ ‘I need help business-wise very quickly,'” Lewis said, adding to “never give them your banking info.”

“They say that they’re going to send you money, because that’s a way that they can take all of yours,” he said.

WTOP’s Anne Kramer contributed to this report.

Dana Sukontarak

Dana Sukontarak is a Digital Writer/Editor for She loves haiku poetry, short sci-fi stories and word games. She grew up in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and currently lives in Silver Spring.

Tadiwos Abedje

Tadi Abedje is a freelance digital writer/editor for WTOP. He was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in Northern Virginia. Journalism has been his No. 1 passion since he was a kid and he is blessed to be around people, telling their stories and sharing them with the world.

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