FBI Jacksonville
Amanda Warford Videll
(904) 248-7093
February 13, 2023

Romance Scammers Targeting Victims with Fake Crypto Investments

JACKSONVILLE, FL—What starts as a whirlwind online romance could turn into an investment opportunity gone bad for victims of romance scams. Also referred to as confidence fraud, romance scams begin when well-rehearsed criminals build relationships with vulnerable users of dating and social media networking sites. Upon gaining the trust of their victims, romance scammers request money for false purposes including medical, travel, or legal fees. The FBI has also identified a trend in which these criminals are increasingly pressuring victims to invest in cryptocurrency, which could lead to increased victimization in 2023.

Year after year, romance scams result in one of the highest reported financial losses when compared to other Internet-facilitated crimes. According to a preliminary report from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a total of 19,050 victims reported losing $739,030,292 to romance scammers in 2022. In Florida, 1,475 victims reported losing a total of $53,412,471, and in North Florida (40 counties) 387 victims reported losing a total of $15,004,250. Unfortunately, some victims hesitate to file a report due to embarrassment or shame.

In 2023, the FBI anticipates a higher reported financial loss due to a trend in International Crypto Investment Fraud as part of romance scams. The scam starts similarly as an online relationship, but instead of asking for cash, the scammer convinces the victim to investment in cryptocurrency. To demonstrate the returns on investment, victims are directed to websites that appear authentic but are instead controlled by the scammer. Once the victim makes a purchase, they are denied the ability to cash out their investments and the scammer cuts off contact.

“Online dating is common today, but unfortunately scammers also thrive on those same sites,” said Sherri E. Onks, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Jacksonville. “Whether you’re looking for love or a friendship online, be sure you first understand the risk of being exploited. Remember, a scammer will always eventually ask you for something, so set a boundary early on and never, ever send money to someone you’ve never met.”

Romance Scams can happen to anyone. Learn the warning signs at www.fbi.gov/romancescams. If you suspect your online relationship is a scam, cease all contact immediately and report the incident to your financial institution and the FBI at www.ic3.gov. Filing a complaint with IC3 allows the FBI to identify patterns to aid federal investigations and public awareness efforts. Annual IC3 reports can be found at https://www.ic3.gov/Home/AnnualReports.