PITTSBURGH, PA (WOWK)—The FBI issued a warning on Tuesday about recent romance scams in West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania.

According to a press release from the FBI Pittsburgh Field Office, nearly 300 people reported losing a total of $7.1 million in romance scams in 2022. They say that more losses likely went unreported.

The release said that criminals search dating sites, chat rooms and other social media sites and try to build “relationships” with their victims for the sole purpose of obtaining money or personal information.

The FBI says that 103 victims in West Virginia lost a total of $3.4 million in 2022, and about 19,000 victims nationwide reported a loss of more than $700 million in the same year.

They provided a checklist to consider before developing a romantic relationship online.

  • Only use reputable, nationally-recognized dating websites; however, be aware that scammers may be using them too.
  • Research photos and profiles in other online search tools and ask questions.
  • Never provide your financial information, loan money, nor allow your bank accounts to be used for transfers of funds.
  • Do not allow attempts to isolate you from family and friends.
  • Do not blindly believe the stories of severe life circumstances, tragedies, family deaths, injuries, or other hardships geared at keeping your interest and concern.
  • If you are planning to meet someone in person you have met online, meet in a public place and let someone know where you will be and what time you should return home.
  • If you are traveling to a foreign country to meet someone check the State Department’s Travel Advisories beforehand (http://travel.state.gov/), provide your itinerary to family and friends, and do not travel alone if possible.

The FBI encourages those who believe they’ve been victims of a romance scam to stop all contact immediately and file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.