THE FBI is warning the public to be wary of threat actors using romance scams this Valentine’s Day season.
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is warning people to be wary of romance schemes that could swindle them out of their money.
A “romance scam” is when a bad actor or criminal adopts a fake online persona to gain a victim’s affection and trust.
The fraudster then uses the perceived trust and romance to manipulate or steal from the victim, according to a statement by the FBI.
The scammers might persuade a victim to send them money, disclose banking details, or purchase items for them online.
“The scammer’s intention is to establish a relationship as quickly as possible, endear himself to the victim, and gain trust. Scammers may propose marriage and make plans to meet in person, but that will never happen. Eventually, they will ask for money,” the FBI wrote in the statement.
The US agency noted that in 2020, reports filed with their Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) revealed victims of romance scams had lost a combined $281 million.
While the scams transcend all demographics, elderly women appear to be targeted most often.
Warning signs of a romance scam
The FBI shared numerous warning signs that could indicate someone is a romance threat actor.
For starters, someone who immediately asks for money, goods, or financial assistance without having met in person is never a good sign.
The agency also suggests being wary of anyone who claims that meeting them was “destiny” or “fate,” and/or reports a sudden personal crisis.
Someone who disappears suddenly on a dating site and then reappears using a different name is also a massive red flag.
Tips for avoiding romance scams
There are several steps you can take to mitigate your risk of falling victim to a romance scam.
First and foremost, you should never send money to anyone you have only communicated with online or by phone.
Second, be careful what information you post or make public as fraudsters can use that to target you.
Next, research a person’s photo and profile to see if the image, name, or details have been used elsewhere.
Lastly, be very vigilant of an individual who attempts to isolate you from friends and family, or requests inappropriate photos or financial information as this could later be used to extort you.
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