Ahead of Valentine’s Day, FBI warns of romance scams costing millions
COLUMBIA, SC (WSAV/WSPA) — The Federal Bureau of Investigation is warning of romance scams ahead of Valentine’s Day.
The FBI says romance scams occur when criminal actors trick victims into believing they are
engage in a relationship of trust. According to Kevin Wheeler, spokesman for the FBI in South Carolina, most scammers turn to social networks or dating apps.
“That’s actually what’s happening,” Wheeler said. “You really never know who you’re talking to on the other end of the line. Often we see them using fake images that they may have obtained from Google images. »
It encourages you to check profiles and photos, and not be too quick to share personal information.
“People need to be careful about what information they may spread, because that’s what scammers focus on,” Wheeler said. “They spend all day trying to figure out your likes, dislikes and how they can touch your heart, if you will, and then later get into your pockets.”
Unfortunately, he says a lot of people come across bad luck stories they hear online. In 2020, FBI research showed victims lost over $281 million to romance scams.
South Carolina alone reported losing more than $4.4 million that year.
“People form these relationships thinking they’re in a relationship or a friendship with someone else and they spend their life savings trying to, I guess, help someone,” Wheeler explained, “but they lose a lot of money.”
He said the FBI sees many scammers asking for wire transfers or access to bank accounts.
That’s why Wheeler says it pays to be careful and informed. He says there’s a list of red flags, but if you’re dealing with a scammer, including the fact that no matter how many attempts the person won’t meet you in person and always seems to have an excuse.
Some other FBI warning signs of these actors and their schemes:
- Immediate attempts to communicate via email or messaging services outside of a dating site.
- Claims to be from the United States but currently lives or travels abroad.
- Claims the intro was ‘fate’ or ‘fate’.
- Signals a sudden personal crisis and urges you to provide financial assistance.
- Suddenly disappears from a site, but reappears under a different name.
- Asks for money, goods or other types of financial assistance without having met in person.
The FBI recommends the following tips to avoid becoming a victim:
- Never send money to anyone you meet online, especially by bank transfer.
- Never give anyone your bank or credit card information without verifying a
- the identity of the recipient.
- Never share your social security number or other personally identifiable information with anyone who does not need to know that information.
- Be careful what you post and make public online. Scammers can use information shared on social media and dating sites to better understand and target you.
- Find the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the image, name or details have been used elsewhere.
- Go slow and ask the other person lots of questions.
If you think you are a victim of romance scams, there are a few steps you should take:
- First, the FBI recommends that you report the activity here.
- Contact your financial institution if you discover fraudulent or suspicious transactions.
- Report the activity to the website or app where the contact started.