FBI Knoxville
Public Affairs Specialist Joyce McCants
(865) 544-0751
February 14, 2018

Romance Scammers Cost Tennesseans More Than $2 Million Dollars

KNOXVILLE, TN—Scam artists preying on lonely hearts are costly for Americans. The most recent statistics from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), which provides the public with a means of reporting Internet-facilitated crimes, reveal losses of nearly $220 million nationwide in 2016. Tennessee residents reported more than $2.25 million for the same time period.

According to the FBI’s IC3, romance scams result in the highest amount of financial losses to victims when compared to other online crimes. In 2016, victims reported almost 15,000 complaints categorized as romance scams, nearly 2,500 more than the previous year. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Knoxville Field Office is working to raise awareness about these online romance scams, also known as “confidence fraud”. In this scheme, scammers take advantage of people looking for romantic partners on dating websites, apps, or social media by obtaining access to their financial or personal identifying information. “Romance scams are prevalent throughout the year, but seem to gain more notoriety in February and around Valentine’s Day”, said Renae McDermott, special agent in charge of the FBI in East Tennessee. “Unfortunately, once the money is gone, it usually winds its way overseas, out of our jurisdiction, making it extremely difficult, if not impossible to retrieve.” Scammers are astute and often spend hours researching your online footprint on other social media channels. Reviewing privacy settings and making the needed changes can help block some of their research. The following tips may be helpful to consider if you develop an online relationship:

  • Research the person’s photo and profile using online search engines to see if the material has been used elsewhere.
  • Take the new relationship slow and ask many questions.
  • Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or social media site to go “offline.”
  • Beware if the individual attempts to isolate you from friends and family or requests.
  • Beware if the individual promises to meet in person, but then always comes up with an excuse why he or she can’t. If you haven’t met the person after a few months, for whatever reason, you have good reason to be suspicious.
  • Never wire or send money to anyone you don’t know personally.

If you believe you are a victim of a romance scam, file a complaint online at ic3.gov. Click here: Tennessee Fraud Statistics to see all categories of reported fraud in Tennessee from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. Story Elements: