FBI warns of online romance scams around Valentine’s Day
PHOENIX – In an attempt to raise awareness and prevent broken hearts this Valentine’s Day, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is warning the public about online romance scams.
“Romance frauds are a type of online scam in which the criminals who perpetrate them seek to victimize people looking for companionship,” Martin Hellmer, special agent in the FBI’s Phoenix field office, explained.
Romance scams, also called confidence scams, rely on the illusion of a romantic or close relationship to get victims to send money, gift cards or other valuables.
According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a total of 560 Arizonans fell victim to romance scams and reported more than $12 million in losses in 2020.
That amount doubled what was reported in 2019, according to Hellmer.
He explained the criminals use fake identities to approach possible victims through dating or social media sites, oftentimes pretending to be in the military or a business person overseas.
“Some telltale signs of romance frauds are that the criminals very quickly want to move communication with their intended victims off of the dating sites,” Hellmer said, adding criminals will want to move to text messages or phone calls.
The other person will also often proclaim their love and Hellmer said the biggest sign of a scam is when they ask for money due to an unexpected medical or legal expense.
Hellmer recommends being careful with sharing information online since scammers do their homework to make themselves seem “more attractive.”
He also advised against sharing personal or banking information to avoid becoming part of a bigger crime like money laundering without knowing.
As a standard rule, Hellmer said don’t send money to people you’ve never met – especially if requested online.