Watch Our City News Service, Los Angeles: The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is working to raise awareness about online romance scams, also called confidence fraud, as these scams are especially prevalent during this time of year. Romance scams occur when a criminal uses a fake online identity to gain a victim’s affection and trust. These scammers are present on most dating and social media sites, looking to establish a relationship as quickly as possible and endear themselves to the victim. Often, they will propose marriage and make plans to meet in person, while avoiding meeting in person by claiming to live or work in other parts of the country or world. Eventually, they will ask for money, oftentimes for a medical emergency, an unexpected legal fee, or some other false purpose.
Romance scams/confidence schemes have resulted in one of the highest amounts of financial losses when compared to other Internet-facilitated crimes. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, roughly 19,000 victims reported over $700,000,000 in losses in 2022, with nearly 1200 victims in the Greater Los Angeles Area reporting more than $122,000,000 in losses. Bad actors are known to target women over age 40 who are widowed, divorced, elderly, or disabled.
The FBI urges people to consider the following tips to avoid falling victim to these schemes, as well as to be aware of red flags. Research the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the image, name, or details have been used elsewhere. Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or social media site to go “offline.” Be cautious if the individual professes love quickly or tries to isolate you from friends and family. If you haven’t met the person after a few months, for whatever reason, be suspicious. Go slowly and ask lots of questions. Be careful what you post and make public online, as scammers can use details shared on social media and dating sites to better understand and target you. Never send money to anyone you have only communicated with online or by phone.
If you suspect an online relationship is a scam, stop all contact immediately. If you are the victim of a romance scam, file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov). The final numbers for 2022 will be available on www.ic3.gov once the Internet Crime Complaint Center’s (IC3) annual report is finalized.