FBI Tech Tuesday: Beware of Romance Scams
PHOENIX, AZ—Falling in love or falling victim? They could be one and the same. FBI Phoenix wants to educate the public on romance scams, also known as confidence fraud.
Romance scams occur when an individual believes they are in a relationship (family, friendly, or romantic) and are tricked into sending money, personal and financial information, or items of value to the fraudster. This includes the Grandparent’s Scheme and any scheme in which the perpetrator preys on the victim’s “heartstrings”.
According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), 651 Arizona victims reported losses of more than $20.9 million in connection with confidence fraud/romance scams in 2021. That’s about a 65% increase from the more than $12 million Arizona residents reported losing in 2020.
The FBI suggests these tips if you develop a relationship with someone online:
- Research the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the material has been used elsewhere.
- Never provide your financial information or loan money to someone online. Do not allow your bank accounts to be used for transfers of funds. Never send money to anyone you don’t know personally.
- If you are traveling to a foreign country to meet someone check the State Department’s Travel Advisories beforehand (http://travel.state.gov/), provide your itinerary to family and friends, and do not travel alone if possible.
- Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or Facebook to go “offline.”
- Beware if the individual attempts to isolate you from friends and family or requests inappropriate photos or financial information that could later be used to extort you.
- Beware if the individual promises to meet in person but then always comes up with an excuse as to why he or she can’t. If you haven’t met the person after a few months, you have good reason to be suspicious.
- If you are planning to meet someone in person you have met online, meet in a public place, and let someone know where you will be and what time you should return home.
Victims may be hesitant to report being taken advantage of due to embarrassment, shame, or humiliation. It’s important to remember, romance scams can happen to anyone at any time.
If you suspect your online relationship is a scam, cease all contact immediately. If you are a victim who has already sent money, immediately report the incident to your financial institution. Then inform your local law enforcement agency or FBI Phoenix at (623) 466-1999. Victims are also encouraged to file a complaint with the FBI at ic3.gov.
For more information on romance scams, visit www.fbi.gov/romancescams.