THE Federal Bureau of Investigations has released a warning to iPhone and Android users over the common fraud scheme known as “romance scams.”
Special Agent Martin Hellmer with the agency’s Phoenix Field Office issued the warning in a brief video, calling on people to protect their friends and family from the scheme.
The warning, typically issued in February around Valentines Day, described what exactly romance scams are.
“These occur when a criminal adopts a fake online identity to gain a victim’s affection and trust,” Hellmer explained.
Often this is done through private messaging applications like WhatsApp, dating apps, or email.
“Then, the scammer uses that illusion of romantic or close relationship to manipulate and steal from the victim,” the special agent continued.
After forming the online relationship, the criminals then attempt to extort money or private information from the victims – putting bank details and more at risk.
These schemes are one of the most highly-reported financial losses for victims of scams, the FBI has previously said.
In 2022 alone, an estimated 19,050 victims reported losing $739,030,292 to romance scammers.
In his warning, Hellmer indicated that individuals can help prevent their family and friends from falling victim.
“Might someone you know and love fall prey to a romance scam? You may just save a loved one from emotional pain and financial suffering,” he said.
There are a number of warning signs to look for regarding romance scams.
The FBI has previously released a breakdown of those signs:
- An individual asks you to leave the dating website where you met to communicate solely through email or instant messaging.
- The individual sends you a photo that looks like a glamour shot from a magazine.
- The individual professes love quickly.
- The individual tries to isolate you from friends and family.
- The individual claims to be working and living far away.
- Plans made to visit you always cancel because of an emergency.
- You are asked to send money, personal information, items of value, or to launder money.
- The individual uses stories of severe life circumstances, tragedies, deaths in the family, injuries to themselves, or other hardships to keep their victims concerned and involved.
- They claim to have knowledge of cryptocurrency investments or trading opportunities that will result in large profits.
It is important to remember that scammers may contact victims of all ages and genders.
If you suspect you are being targeted in a romance scam, the FBI recommends cutting off contact with the individual immediately.
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