Romance Scams 

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. Con artists are present on most dating and social media sites.

The scammer’s intention is to establish a relationship as quickly as possible, endear himself to the victim, and gain trust. Scammers may propose marriage and make plans to meet in person, but that will never happen. Eventually, they will ask for money.

Scam artists often say they are in the building and construction industry and are engaged in projects outside the U.S. That makes it easier to avoid meeting in person—and more plausible when they ask for money for a medical emergency or unexpected legal fee.

If someone you meet online needs your bank account information to deposit money, they are most likely using your account to carry out other theft and fraud schemes.

Stock graphic of computer keyboard with broken heart key and USB wrapped in money illustrating online romance scams.
If you suspect an online relationship is a scam, stop all contact immediately. If you are the victim of a romance scam, file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

Tips for Avoiding Romance Scams:  

  • Be careful what you post and make public online. Scammers can use details shared on social media and dating sites to better understand and target you.
  • Research the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the image, name, or details have been used elsewhere.
  • Go slowly and ask lots of questions.
  • Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or social media site to communicate directly.
  • 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 why he or she can’t. If you haven’t met the person after a few months, for whatever reason, you have good reason to be suspicious.
  • Never send money to anyone you have only communicated with online or by phone.

Victim Tells Her Story 

The victim of a romance scam describes how she was duped out of $2 million by an online suitor she has never met.

Transcript / Download

Agent Describes Scam 

Christine Beining, a special agent in the FBI's Houston Division, describes how scam artists use Internet sites to prey on lonely individuals to get to their money.

Transcript / Download

Resources 

Public Service Announcements from IC3

08.05.2019  Cyber Actors Use Online Dating Sites to Conduct Confidence/Romance Fraud and Recruit Money Mules
Last year, confidence/romance fraud was the seventh most commonly reported scam to the IC3 based on the number of complaints received, and the second costliest scam in terms of victim loss.

04.29.2011  The Dangerous Side of Online Romance Scams
The IC3 is warning the public to be wary of romance scams in which scammers target individuals who search for companionship or romance online.

Related FBI News, Stories, and Multimedia

  • 12.07.2017

    FBI, This Week: Criminals Put Holiday Spin on Internet-Facilitated Schemes

    The FBI says criminals put a holiday twist on the methods they use to scam you online during this time of year.

  • 02.13.2017

    Special Agent Christine Beining Describes Romance Scams

    Christine Beining, a special agent in the FBI's Houston Division, describes how scam artists use Internet sites to prey on lonely individuals to get to their money.

  • 02.13.2017

    Victim of Romance Scam Tells Her Story

    The victim of a romance scam describes how she was duped out of $2 million by an online suitor she has never met.

  • 02.13.2017

    Romance Scams

    A woman who lost $2 million to a con artist who she fell in love with online shares her story in the hopes that others might avoid falling victim to this type of crime.

  • 02.10.2016

    Overseas Romance Scams Rising

    The FBI says an increasing number of Americans are becoming victims of romance scams originating from West Africa.

  • 01.07.2016

    African Romance Scams

    An increasing number of Americans are becoming victims of romance scams originating from West Africa.

  • 02.05.2015

    Romance Scams

    Romance scams, also known as confidence scams, result in the highest amount of financial losses when compared to other Internet-facilitated crimes.