As Valentine’s Day Nears, Be Aware of the Dangers of Romance Scams
Romance Scams Have Some of the Highest Financial Losses for Victims Who Are Targeted Online
BALTIMORE, MD—Many romance scams, also called confidence fraud, promise love and happiness, but criminals are looking to rob victims of their savings. This February, the FBI’s Baltimore Field Office is warning the public to watch out for con artists seeking to target and take advantage of people looking for romantic partners or companionship online.
Oftentimes criminals create fake profiles and then search dating sites, apps, and social media platforms for victims. They work to quickly build a trusting relationship that could be familial, friendly, or romantic. Fraudsters will seem genuine, caring, and believable. However, they leverage these relationships to manipulate and steal from victims, tricking them into sending money or sharing personal and financial information.
Seniors, who are often isolated and lonely, are particularly susceptible, but anyone can become a victim.
The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received more than 19,000 complaints about confidence/romance scams in 2022 with reported losses of almost $740 million. Here in Maryland, 350 victims reported losing $15.6 million in 2022. Of those reports, 120 victims were over 60 years old, losing $10.5 million of the reported total losses.
“Romance scams are a persistent problem that create emotional turmoil for victims and their families. There’s a devastating financial, psychological, and emotional impact,” said Thomas J. Sobocinski, special agent in charge of the FBI Baltimore Field Office. “Family members should pay attention to who their loved ones are talking to online. If something doesn’t seem right, contact the FBI.”
If you develop a relationship with someone you meet online, follow these tips, and beware of the red flags:
- Think twice before you share personal information online. Scammers can use details shared on dating sites and social media platforms to better target victims.
- If you try online dating, only use dating sites with well-known reputations. Search people’s photos and profiles online to see if anyone has used the names, images, or information elsewhere.
- Beware of online suitors who try to isolate you from your family or friends.
- Don’t send money to someone you’ve never met in person.
- Go slowly and ask the other person lots of questions.
- If you notice older family members using new communications apps or dating sites, explain the red flags and pitfalls so they don’t fall victim to these criminals.
If you suspect your relationship is a scam, stop all contact immediately. Report scams and attempted fraud to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov or call 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324). You should also contact your financial institution if you’ve sent money.
- Number of Victims: 19,050
- Reported Loss: $739,030,292
*2022’s numbers are preliminary. IC3 will officially release the final numbers later this quarter.
Some romance scams overlap with investment scams. This year, investment scams are being broken out and reported in a different category than romance scams. In 2022, IC3 saw around 1,065 victims in Maryland report investment scams, with victims losing a total of $99.4 million.
Across the country, 30,690 people reported investment complaints with losses totaling $3.344 billion in 2022.