Oregon FBI Tech Tuesday: Building a Digital Defense Against Romance Frauds
Welcome to the Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday segment. Today: Building a digital defense against love gone wrong. Last week we talked about traditional romance scams where your new life partner gets you to send money to him for some work, travel, or medical emergency. He’s half a world away and will visit you any day—with promises to pay you back—but neither he nor the money will ever show up.
Today we are going to talk about another version of this scheme which the scammer sends the victim money, usually in the form of a cashier’s check, money order, or wire transfer. The virtual love claims he is out of the country and unable to cash the instruments or receive the funds directly. He asks the victim to redirect the funds back to him or to an associate to whom he purportedly owes money. In this situation, the victim becomes a money mule.
Acting as a money mule—allowing others to use your bank account or conducting financial transactions on behalf of others—not only jeopardizes your financial security and compromises your personally identifiable information, but it is also a crime. Protect yourself by refusing to send or receive money on behalf of individuals and businesses for which you are not personally and professionally responsible.
The most important thing to remember is that you should never agree to move money through your bank account or any other bank account. That can be illegal and put you in legal jeopardy.
One final warning on physical safety and romance scams: If you are planning to meet someone in person who you have met online, the FBI recommends using caution, especially if you plan to travel to a foreign country. Do not travel alone. Check the State Department’s Travel Advisories before arranging any travel (http://travel.state.gov/). Victims who have agreed to meet in person with an online love interest have been reported missing, injured, and, in one instance, deceased.
If you believe are a victim of an online scam, you should report the incident to the FBI’s Internet Crime Center at www.ic3.gov or call your FBI local office.