FBI Cleveland
Public Affairs Officer Susan Licate
February 15, 2023

FBI Cleveland Warns of Romance Scams Throughout the Month of Love

CLEVELAND, OH—While Valentine’s Day has passed, FBI Cleveland wants the public to remain aware and prepared when looking for love online.

Romance scams, also known as confidence scams, typically occur when a criminal creates a fake profile on a dating site or social media platform, and tricks victims into believing they’re in a loving and trusting relationship with that online persona. Fraudsters then leverage that relationship and concoct stories of financial hardships, persuading victims to send them money.

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received more than 19,000 complaints about confidence/romance scams in 2022—with reported losses of at least $739 million.

This year, many of those losses came from a romance scam and investment scheme often called “pig butchering.” Like all romance scams, pig butchering starts out with a criminal contacting a victim, usually on dating and social media apps, then after a period of time, convinces the victim to make investments in cryptocurrency to take advantage of the potential for high yield returns.

“While this type of scam has a new name using cryptocurrency as the bait, the idea remains the same: it is a romance scam designed to swindle something of value from a victim,” said FBI Cleveland Special Agent in Charge Gregory Nelsen. “FBI Cleveland is focused on helping the public understand the tactics used to lure victims, what to look for when socializing or doing business online, and what to do if you think you may have become a victim in one of these scams.”

If you find yourself beginning to develop a relationship with someone you meet online, remember these tips to help protect yourself:

  • Be careful with sharing too much personal information online. Scammers can use some of those details to target you.
  • If you’re on dating sites, only use platforms with a well-known reputation, and research photos and profiles online to see if anyone has used that name or image elsewhere. It may take a little time on your part but will be well worth the effort in the long run.
  • Beware of online suitors who try to isolate you from your family or friends, or those who ask you to send inappropriate photos or financial information that could be later used to extort you.
  • Don’t send money to someone you’ve never met in person. Scammers often use emotional pleas and stories of despair to trick you into believing their story of need.

If you suspect your online relationship is a scam, call 1-800-CALL-FBI to file a report, or visit ic3.gov to submit a tip. You should also contact your financial institution if you’ve already sent money.

Find more resources about romance scams on the FBI’s website, located at FBI.gov, and search romance scams.