(WFXR) — With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, scammers are making their moves online by using fake identities to manipulate and/or steal from people under the guise of a romantic relationship, so the FBI is sharing some advice to help you protect both your heart and your wallet from romance scams.
“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,” the FBI says. “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.”
According to officials, scam artists often say they work in the building and construction industry and are involved in projects outside the U.S., thus making it easier to avoid meeting in person, as well as more plausible when they ask for money for a medical emergency or unexpected legal fee.
If someone you meet online needs your bank account information to deposit money, the FBI says they are probably using your account to conduct other theft or fraud schemes.
Here are some simple tips from the FBI for avoiding romance scams from the start:
- Be careful with what you post and publicize online because scammers can use the details shared on social media and dating sites to better understand and target you.
- Search online to see if the person’s photo, name, or profile details have been used elsewhere.
- Go slowly and ask lots of questions.
- Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or social media site to communicate directly.
- Be cautious if the person tries to isolate you from your 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 with whom you have only communicated online or over the phone.
If you suspect your online relationship is a scam, stop all contact immediately. If your suspicions end up being correct and you are a victim of a romance scam, you are encouraged to file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
To learn more about romance scams or listen to a victim’s story about being duped out of $2 million by an online suitor she never met, follow this link.