The FBI is warning the public about romance scams as Valentine's Day approaches.
Agents say that romance scams occur when a criminal adopts a fake online identity to gain a victim's affection and trust.
The scams also involve the scammer creating an illusion of a romantic or close relationship to manipulate or steal from their victims.
According to the FBI, 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.
Scammers may quickly establish a relationship and often times will propose marriage or make plans to meet in person, which will never happen. The FBI says that 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," an FBI press release states. "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."
Agents say that 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.
Tips for avoiding romance scams:
- 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.
- Never send money to anyone you have only communicated with online or by phone.
- 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.
- Beware of false promises 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.
- Go slowly and ask lots of questions.
Those who believe they may be involved in a romance scam should stop all contact with the person. Victims can file a complaint with the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)
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