FBI Jacksonville
Amanda Warford Videll
February 13, 2024

Beware of Romance Scammers Looking for More Than Love

Online Imposters Are Breaking Hearts and Bank Accounts All Year

JACKSONVILLE, FL—The FBI Jacksonville Division is warning Floridians to take caution when developing relationships online, as they could fall victim to confidence fraud, also known as romance scams. According to the FBI’s Internet Crimes Complaint Center (IC3), Floridians reported losing more than $53 million to the scam in 2022, up from $13 million five years earlier (2017). In 2022, IC3 received 19,000 confidence fraud complaints nationwide, with reported losses of at least $739 million.

Confidence fraud/romance stats for Florida:

  • 2017: 1,085 victims, $13,175,474 in losses
  • 2022: 1,474 victims, $53,412,471 in losses

The criminals who carry out romance scams identify and target vulnerable victims via social media, intending to establish a relationship as quickly as possible. Romance scammers spend hours studying their victims to understand better how to manipulate and exploit them emotionally. They often claim to be traveling or engaged in work overseas to avoid meeting in person. Eventually, when they feel they have gained their victim’s trust, they will request money, often for a medical emergency or unexpected legal fee.

Be careful about the personal information you post online, and always assume that con artists are trolling even the most reputable dating and social media sites. If you develop a relationship online, consider:

  • Research the person’s photo and profile to see if the material appears elsewhere.
  • Go slow and ask questions.
  • Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to communicate "offline."
  • Beware if the individual attempts to isolate you from friends and family.
  • Beware if the individual requests inappropriate photos or financial information that could be used to extort you.
  • Beware if the individual promises to meet in person but always has an excuse.
  • Never send money to anyone you don't know personally; never help anyone move money through your account or another person’s account (see Money Mule).

If you suspect an online relationship is a scam, stop all contact immediately and file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.