Beware of online crushes: They can crush you with costly romance scams, FBI Phoenix warns

Feb 13, 2024, 4:00 PM | Updated: 4:20 pm

Romance scams can financially crush Arizonans Valentine's Day 2024...

Romance scams often target lonely seniors who are looking for companionship. (File photo by Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images)

(File photo by Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Online lovers can crush Arizonans financially through romance scams, according to a Monday announcement from the Phoenix FBI office.

“Unfortunately, they prey on folks who might be lonely,” according to Kevin Smith, a spokesperson with the office. “They tend to develop a online relationship whereby the victim feels they’re in a relationship with this person.”

Instead of demanding money outright like most scammers, romance scammers take their time cultivating relationships over digital platforms to lure victims into a false sense of security.

“Believe it or not, we’ve got nearly 700 victims in the state of Arizona in 2022,” Smith told KTAR News 92.3 FM. More than half of those victims are seniors, he added.

Everyone’s circumstances are different, so it’s hard to tell why people fall for these romance scams, he added. However, he said these types of criminals target vulnerable people who may be older and craving companionship.

It’s easy for scammers to cultivate trust and trick victims into thinking they have good intentions, he added.

“They are pros at this and they get people to believe that they’re in a relationship,” Smith said. “(They) extract a real a ton of financial losses from their victims.”

Older Arizonans at high risk of falling for romance scams

These crimes occur year-round — not just around Valentine’s Day, Smith said.

Scammers often target seniors, who may feel isolated and eager for companionship,” he added.

“What we need to do as sons and daughters, or grandsons and granddaughters, or any type of relative, is check on our senior citizens,” Smith said.

If an older relative is spending a lot of money on a crush or partner they don’t know in-person, they’re likely the victim of a con, he added.

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes also issued a warning about romance scams this week. Her office shared these warning signs:

  • Scammers may be quick to profess their love.
  • They may lure you in with promises to meet in person but always cancel.
  • Criminals often pose as heroes and do-gooders to quickly gain your trust.
  • They suddenly request money to deal with an “emergency.”
  • Romance scammers ask you to wire money, put money on gift cards and give them PIN codes or they ask for cryptocurrency.

“Romance scammers seek to exploit the desire we all have for love and companionship,” Mayes said in a Tuesday statement. “These scams affect tens of thousands of people each year.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Colton Krolak contributed to this report.

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Beware of online crushes: They can crush you with costly romance scams, FBI Phoenix warns