The FBI has an issued an informative awareness document on the growing dangers of Romance Scams as follows:
“I’m very active on Facebook,” said the woman, who agreed to share her story in the hopes that others might avoid becoming victims. “I thought it was safe.” After she friended Charlie—without verifying his bogus claim that they had a mutual friend—“he would read my wall, I would read his wall. We would post things, he would like things. Then it got to where we would share e-mails. We started sharing pictures.”
According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), which provides the public with a means of reporting Internet-facilitated crimes, romance scams—also called confidence fraud—result in the highest amount of financial losses to victims when compared to other online crimes.
Romance scammers often say they are in the building and construction industry and are engaged in projects outside the U.S. That makes it easier to avoid meeting in person—and more plausible when they ask their victims for help. They will suddenly need money for a medical emergency or unexpected legal fee. “They promise to repay the loan immediately,” Beining said, “but the victims never get their money back.”
The scammer’s intention is to establish a relationship as quickly as possible, endear himself to the victim, gain trust, and propose marriage. He will make plans to meet in person, but that will never happen. Eventually, he will ask for money.
In 2016, almost 15,000 complaints categorized as romance scams or confidence fraud were reported to IC3 (nearly 2,500 more than the previous year), and the losses associated with those complaints exceeded $230 million. The states with the highest numbers of victims were California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania. In Texas last year, the IC3 received more than 1,000 complaints from victims reporting more than $16 million in losses related to romance scams