FBI Media Alert: Avoid Becoming a Victim of Romance Scams
PITTSBURGH—Valentine’s Day and the days leading up to it can be exciting, but it can also lead to heartbreak, embarrassment, and financial loss. Well-rehearsed criminals search dating sites, apps, chat rooms, and other social media networking sites attempting to build “relationships” for the sole purpose of getting your money or your personally identifiable information.
Romance scammers often create fake profiles on dating sites and apps or contact their targets through popular social media sites. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center or IC3, romance scams, also called confidence fraud, affected more than 1,600 people in West Virginia in 2020, up from 1,200 people in 2019. This resulted in losses totaling $4.8 million dollars in 2020.
To avoid becoming a victim, FBI Pittsburgh recommends the following:
- Only use reputable, nationally-recognized dating websites; however, be aware that scammers may be using them too.
- Research photos and profiles in other online search tools and ask questions.
- Never provide your financial information, loan money, nor allow your bank accounts to be used for transfers of funds.
- Do not allow attempts to isolate you from family and friends.
- Do not blindly believe the stories of severe life circumstances, tragedies, family deaths, injuries, or other hardships geared at keeping your interest and concern.
- 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.
- 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.
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, file a complaint with the Internet Crimes Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov), and contact law enforcement.