The FBI is warning individuals who use online dating apps and platforms to watch out for scammers leveraging social distancing measures and defrauding unsuspecting victims of their hard-earned money.
Romance or confidence scams drew nearly 20,000 complaints back in 2019, with losses totaling almost half of billion dollars, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
“Romance scams result in greater financial losses to victims when compared to other online crimes,” the FBI said. “In 2019, almost 20,000 complaints categorized as romance scams were reported to IC3 (about 1,000 more than the previous year), and the losses associated with those complaints exceeded $475 million”.
These scams are not just financially devastating for victims, who rarely recover their losses, but can also bring emotional distress for romance-seekers.
If you are considering entering a romantic relationship with someone you meet online, take into account the following recommendations from the recent FBI alert:
• Research the individual online by checking if their photo or profile appears on any other platforms
• Don’t rush into a relationship before getting to know the person you are conversing with – romance scammers are exceptional social engineers who prey on human emotion. In most cases, the scammer will always make the first move, pushing you into revealing personal information
• Be wary of individuals who rush you into leaving the dating service or social media platform, asking you for your phone number
• Be suspicious of individuals who promise a face-to-face meeting but always come up with excuses for not being able to meet
• Never provide sensitive information such as Social Security numbers, financial data and home address
• Avoid sending any money to people you don’t personally meet, and never open a bank account for anyone you connect with online. If fraudsters can’t get you to send them money, they might try to trick you into laundering money received from other victims
• If you suspect you are a victim of such scam artists, cease contact with the individuals and file a complaint with local authorities and IC3