FBI Baltimore Warns of Romance Scams Ahead of Valentine’s Day
Romance Scams Are the Most Common Form of Scam Targeting Elderly People in the U.S.
BALTIMORE, MD—Don't let your hearts and bank accounts get drained, swipe left on potential romance scams. This Valentine’s Day, the Baltimore Field Office wants to educate the public about romance scams, so you can protect your heart—and your wallet—from scammers.
In romance scams (also known as confidence scams), a criminal creates fake profiles on dating sites or social media platforms to trick victims into believing that they are in a trusting relationship—whether familial, friendly, or romantic—with the perpetrator. Fraudsters leverage these relationships to manipulate and steal from victims—and break their hearts.
“Victims at the end of a romance scam can feel manipulated. Families, relationships, marriages can be torn apart, and the toll that one of these scams can take is devastating,” said Thomas J. Sobocinski, special agent in charge of the FBI Baltimore Field Office. “As family members, it’s important to get your loved one talking and evaluating that online relationship and, of course if you suspect they are the victim of a romance scam contact the FBI.”
The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received more than 23,000 complaints about confidence/romance scams in 2020—with reported losses of more than $600 million.
Romance scammers profit from exploiting their victims. Once they gain victims’ love and trust, they concoct stories of financial hardships to persuade victims to send them money.
Some criminals also ask victims to receive funds in the form of a cashier’s check, money order, or wire transfer. Then, they ask victims to redirect the funds to them or to an associate to whom they purportedly owe money.
In some cases of confidence fraud, the financial risk to victims is less obvious. Fraudsters ask victims to reship packages instead of redirecting funds. In these examples, victims risk losing money and incurring other expenses, such as bank fees and penalties. Some victims may even face prosecution.
While anyone can fall victim to these schemes, bad actors are known to target women over age 40 who are widowed, divorced, elderly, or disabled.
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 or who ask you to send inappropriate photos or financial information that they could later use to extort you.
- 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 online relationship is a scam, call 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324) to file a report, or visit ic3.gov to submit a tip. You should also contact your financial institution if you’ve sent money.