FBI Springfield Warns Romance Scams Lead to Heartbreak and Financial Loss for Victims
While many people find authentic rewarding relationships online, far too many fall prey to romance scams. In romance scams, a criminal adopts a fake online identity to gain a victim’s affection and trust with the illusion of a romantic or close relationship in order to steal the victim’s money.
Scammers use well-rehearsed scripts that have been used repeatedly and successfully, typically targeting victims via dating websites or apps, with the intention of establishing a relationship as quickly as possible. Some even keep journals on their victims to better understand how to manipulate and exploit them. Criminals targeting women with romance scams often create a persona of a successful businessman, while those targeting men often create the persona of a young beautiful woman.
Although the exact numbers for 2021 are still being tabulated, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) preliminary results indicate a reported victim loss of approximately $1 billion, affecting 24,000 victims. Individual state estimates for 2021 are not yet available, however Illinois’ 2020 losses totaled over $14 million.
Romance scams can target anyone using dating and other social media sites. Here are some red flags that might indicate you are headed for heartbreak.
- You are asked to leave the dating website where you met to communicate solely through email or instant messaging.
- The individual sends you a photo that looks like a glamour shot out of a magazine.
- The individual professes love quickly.
- The individual tries to isolate you from friends and family.
- The individual claims to be working and living far away.
- Plans made to visit you always cancel because of an emergency.
- You are asked to send money, personal and financial information, items of value, or to launder money.
- The individual uses stories of severe life circumstances, tragedies, deaths in the family, injuries to themselves, or other hardships to keep their victims concerned and involved.
- A claim they have knowledge of cryptocurrency investments or trading opportunities that will result in substantial profits.
FBI Springfield offers the following tips to avoid becoming a victim.
- Go slow and ask questions.
- If you suspect an online relationship is a scam, stop all contact immediately.
- Never send money to someone you met online and have not met in person.
- Never share your Social Security Number or other personally identifiable information.
- Research the individual’s picture and profile using other online search tools.
- If you are planning to meet someone in person, proceed with caution, especially if you plan to travel to a foreign country.
- Be careful what you post and make public online as scammers can use details shared on social media and dating sites to better understand and target you.
- If you haven’t met the individual in person after a few months, you have good reason to be suspicious.
“Romance scammers work hard perfecting the skill of playing to a victim’s emotions, which can lead not only to heartbreak for the victim but devastating financial loss,” said Springfield Field Office Special Agent in Charge David Nanz. “While the FBI will continue its relentless pursuit of scammers, the public’s best defense is to remain aware and educate themselves on the warning signs.”
Many times, victims may feel embarrassed, ashamed, or humiliated and be reluctant to share their victimization with anyone, let alone report it to law enforcement. However, the FBI encourages anyone who has been victimized by this fraud or unsuccessfully targeted to contact FBI Springfield at 217-522-9675 and file a complaint with the FBI’s IC3. Coming forward will provide law enforcement with the necessary information to ensure online imposters are stopped and brought to justice.