FBI Philadelphia Warns of Romance Scams Ahead of Valentine’s Day
As Valentine’s Day approaches, the FBI is reminding the public to be cautious of potential romance scams, with con artists present on most dating and social media sites.
In 2022, some 19,000 victims across the United States reported losing more than $700 million to romance scams.* It’s likely that many more losses went unreported.
Romance scams occur when a criminal adopts a fake online identity to gain a victim’s affection and trust. The scammer then uses the illusion of a romantic or close relationship to manipulate and/or steal from the victim.
The criminals who carry out romance scams are experts at what they do and will seem genuine, caring, and believable. They’ll research their intended victims’ social media accounts to help develop a quick connection, so be careful what information you share online.
The scammers’ intention is to establish a relationship as quickly as possible, endear themselves to their victims, and gain trust. Scammers may even go so far as to propose marriage before asking for money.
These scam artists often say they’re in the military and deployed, or otherwise working outside the U.S.; that makes it easier to avoid meeting in person — and more plausible when they ask for money for a medical or other emergency.
If you develop a romantic relationship with someone you meet online:
- Conduct a reverse image search of the person’s photo(s). If they show up under another name or profile, it’s likely a scam.
- Take the relationship slowly and ask lots of questions.
- Beware if the person quickly asks you to leave a dating app or social media platform to go “offline” — or tries to isolate you from friends and family.
- It’s a major red flag if the individual promises to meet in person, then always finds an excuse to postpone it.
- Bottom line: NEVER send money, cryptocurrency, or gift cards to anyone you’ve only communicated with online or by phone, regardless of how in love you think you are.
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 ic3.gov.
* Preliminary figures; the exact numbers for 2022 will be available on ic3.gov once the Internet Crime Complaint Center’s annual report is finalized.