ST. LOUIS — Officials are warning those looking for love this Valentine's Day to watch out for scammers who might break their hearts -- and empty their wallets.

American consumers reported losing $201 million to romance scams in 2019, according to New Federal Trade Commission (FTC) data. That's up 40% from 2018.

More than 25,000 people reported to the FTC last year that they were tricked into sending money to people they met online while looking for love.

The FTC said romance scammers will often say they live outside the U.S. They might claim to work on an oil rig, in the military or as a doctor with an international organization. They'll chat with their victims regularly and try to build a trusting relationship. Eventually, they'll make up a story and ask for money.

The FTC highlighted several reasons a scammer might give for needing money:

  • pay for a plane ticket or other travel expenses
  • pay for surgery or other medical expenses
  • pay customs fees to retrieve something
  • pay off gambling debts
  • pay for a visa or other official travel documents

If you suspect someone is trying to scam you, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

To learn more about how to avoid falling for a romance scam, click here.

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