FBI Los Angeles Field Office Warns of Romance Scams Ahead of Valentine’s Day
LOS ANGELES—The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is working to raise awareness about online romance scams, also called confidence fraud. In this type of fraud, 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, especially during this time of year.
Romance scams occur when a criminal uses a fake online identity to gain a victim’s affection and trust. These scammers are present on most dating and social media sites. They look to establish a relationship as quickly as possible and endear themselves to the victim. Many may propose marriage and make plans to meet in person. Eventually, they will ask for money.
To avoid meeting in person, romance scammers often claim to live or work in other parts of the country or world. Eventually, when they feel they have gained the trust of their victims, these criminals will request money from them, oftentimes for a medical emergency, an unexpected legal fee, or some other false purpose.
Romance scams/confidence schemes have resulted in one of the highest amounts of financial losses when compared to other Internet-facilitated crimes. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, roughly 19,000 victims reported over $700,000,000 in losses in 2022.
That same year, nearly 1200 victims in the Greater Los Angeles Area reported more than $122,000,000 in losses.
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, please consider the following tips and beware of the red flags:
- Research the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the image, name, or details have been used elsewhere.
- Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or social media site to go “offline.”
- The individual professes love quickly.
- The individual tries to isolate you from friends and family.
- The individual makes plans to visit you, but always cancels because of some emergency. If you haven’t met the person after a few months, for whatever reason, you have good reason to be suspicious.
- Go slowly and ask lots of questions.
- Be careful what you post and make public online. Scammers can use details shared on social media and dating sites to better understand and target you.
- Never send money to anyone you have only communicated with online or by phone.
If you suspect an online relationship is a scam, stop all contact immediately. If you are the victim of a romance scam, file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov).
The final numbers for 2022 will be available on www.ic3.gov once the Internet Crime Complaint Center’s (IC3) annual report is finalized.