FBI warns of online imposters breaking hearts and bank accounts for Valentine’s Day

There’s a year-round scam far too common that tugs at the victim’s ‘heartstrings’ and breaks their bank account in the process. It’s called a ‘romance’ scam or confidence scam. As Valentine’s Day approaches, the FBI has some tips to avoid falling victim to this type of scheme. 

The criminals who carry out romance scams are experts at what they do. They spend hours honing their skills and sometimes keep journals on their victims to better understand how to manipulate and exploit them. 

In a romance or confidence scam, an individual believes they are in a relationship (family, friendly, or romantic) and are tricked into sending money, personal and financial information, items of value, or launder money.  

In 2020, more than 23,000 victims across the United States reported a loss of more than $600 million to this type of scam to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). 

To stay safe online, be careful what you post because scammers can use that information against you. Always use reputable websites, but assume that con artists are trolling even the most reputable dating and social media sites.  

If you develop a romantic relationship with someone you meet online, consider the following: 

  • Research the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the material has been used elsewhere. 
  • Go slow and ask lots of questions. 
  • Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or Facebook to go “offline.” 
  • 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 don’t know personally.  

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 at www.ic3.gov

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Before creating Bluebonnet News in 2018, Vanesa Brashier was a community editor for the Houston Chronicle/Houston Community Newspapers. During part of her 12 years at the newspapers, she was assigned as the digital editor and managing editor for the Humble Observer, Kingwood Observer, East Montgomery County Observer and the Lake Houston Observer, and the editor of the Dayton News, Cleveland Advocate and Eastex Advocate. Over the years, she has earned more than two dozen writing awards, including Journalist of the Year.

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