FBI Warns New Yorkers to Beware of Romance Scams | #datingscams | #lovescams

On Valentine’s Day, no one wants to be alone. However, the search for a significant other is more dangerous than ever, the FBI warns New Yorkers. Jim Smith, the Assistant Director in Charge (ADIC) of the FBI’s New York Field Office, warns that the matter that has grown increasingly pressing in recent years.

The FBI’s IC3, Internet Crime Complaint Center recorded 19,000 cases of romance scams in 2022 and losses totaled almost $740 million. It is estimated that many more cases actually occurred as they were only able to account for the scams that had been reported to the FBI.

The Federal Trade Commission places the scam number even higher, with nearly 70,000 people reported a romance scam in 2022 and reported losses hit a staggering $1.3 billion. There is likely a high amount of incidents that were kept confidential.

To steer clear of possible romance cons online, the FBI urges social media users to take certain precautions. Users should use apps and sites that have good reputations and research prospective partners before meeting in person by checking to see if their profile pictures have been used anywhere else online. The FBI also listed signs that matches online may exhibit to be wary of; such as attempting to isolate you from friends and family, asking to send or move money, and canceling frequently at the last minute when making plans to meet in person. If users have any suspicions that their online relationship may not be authentic, the FBI advises to cease all communication immediately.

These false relationships are so dangerous and so frequent because the criminals that commit them are incredibly skilled in their field. With expansive knowledge of the internet as well as a good read on lonely singles on the internet, they are able to communicate and manipulate users into doing as they see fit. “The internet makes this type of crime easy because you can pretend to be anybody you want to be,” said the FBI’s Smith.

Internet relationship scams are difficult for the FBI to counter largely because of the ability to remain mostly anonymous on dating sites, which allows criminals the ability to stay out of reach of law enforcement.

Online personas can be tailored based on the victim, creating an attachment between the two. Once a user has let their guard down, it then becomes easy for a scammer to exploit them for money and other benefits. The difficulty comes when ending the relationships as some victims let scammers walk free out of embarrassment for falling for the trap.

“They say it’s true love, but they live far away,” warned Ellen Fletcher, a senior data researcher at the FTC writing for its Consumer Protection Data Spotlight, “maybe for work or because they’re in the military. Then they start asking for money. Maybe it’s for a plane ticket to visit you. Or emergency surgery. Or something else urgent.”

“You may have heard about romance scammers who tell you they’re sick, hurt, or in jail–or give you another fake reason to send them money,” warns Fletcher.

But there is also another twist that the scammers use to get your guard down. “Many romance scammers operate by offering to do you a favor,” said Fletcher, “They may claim to be a successful cryptocurrency investor who’ll teach you how it’s done. But any money you ‘invest’ goes straight into their wallet.

“In another twist, they might say they’ve shipped you a valuable package (not true), which requires you to send money for ‘customs’ or some other made-up fee. It’s all a lie. You send the money, and the package never turns up,” Fletcher warns. “In short, there’s no end to the lies romance scammers will tell to get your money,” she said.

Romance scammers create fake profiles on dating sites and apps or contact you through popular social media sites like Instagram or Facebook. The scammers strike up a relationship with you to build up trust, sometimes talking or chatting several times a day. Then, they make up a story and ask for money.

The FBI urges New Yorkers who have fallen victim to an online relationship con this Valentine’s Day, or any other time, to file a complaint with them at 212-384-1000 or with the IC3 (ic3.gov) at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324).

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