TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - FBI Phoenix doesn’t want you to get your heart broken by a scammer this Valentine’s Day.
They are warning people of romance scams, it’s when a criminal takes on a fake online identity to gain a person’s affection and trust. The scammer then uses the illusion of a romantic or close relationship to manipulate and/or steal from the victim.
According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), 560 Arizona victims reported losses of more than $12 million in connection with confidence fraud/romance scams in 2020.
Officials say the scammers are present on most dating and social media sites and will attempt to earn your love, maybe even propose marriage, and make plans to meet in person, but victims will likely never see them. Eventually, the criminals will ask for money.
FBI Phoenix offers several tips to help protect yourself:
- Research the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the material has been used elsewhere.
- Never provide your financial information, loan money, nor allow your bank accounts to be used for transfers of funds.
- Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or Facebook to go “offline.”
- 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.
- 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 suspect your online relationship is a scam, stop all contact immediately.
If you are a victim who has already sent money, immediately report the incident to your financial institution. Then inform your local law enforcement agency or FBI Phoenix at (623)466-1999. Victims are also encouraged to file a complaint with the FBI.
For more information, visit the FBI website.