FBI Norfolk Warns of Romance Scams Ahead of Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and FBI Norfolk wants to educate the public about romance scams so you can protect your heart – and your wallet – from scammers.
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 scheme 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 pig butchering with cryptocurrency is a newer scheme, the idea behind it is still the same as any romance scam—to take something of value from a victim,” said Scott Zmudzinski, supervisory special agent in charge of FBI Norfolk’s white-collar crime and transnational organized crime programs. “That’s why it’s important to vet any online relationship and pay heed to potential warning signs.”
If you find yourself beginning to develop a relationship with someone you meet online, use 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 well-known reputations, and research people’s photos and profiles online to see if anyone has used that name or image elsewhere.
- 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.
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.
You can also find more resources about romance scams on the FBI’s website, located here.