AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – A new report by the Federal Trade Commission reveals thousands of unsuspecting lovestruck people fell prey to a romance scam last year – and it’s happening right here in the CSRA.
About 70,000 victims collectively lost $1.3 billion, according to the report.
The IRS says criminals create fake online profiles, usually on social media applications and dating websites, and attempt to build phony emotional attachments until a potential victim is comfortable sending them money. Many scammers find victims by pulling online public information, which they use to do research.
One of the victims was a Martinez woman who lost A Martinez woman was scammed out of $145,000 last March.
Many scams have been around for years but often get a new twist. Here are some things to watch for.
It happened after she began texting a man she met on a millionaire dating site, and she believed it was going to become a serious relationship, according to deputies.
He encouraged her to invest in cryptocurrency through an online site and said he would teach her how to make a profit.
She took out several personal loans and invested about $145,000.
She got a notice that she was able to withdraw the amount she made in profit but she first had to make a payment that would cover the tax amount.
She got suspicious and figured out the website wasn’t legitimate, deputies reported.
“It is important that people are careful of people they meet through social media sites,” Special Agent in Charge Demetrius Hardeman said. “Many of these scammers are very patient and will wait weeks or months to gain a victim’s trust.”
Here are some tips the office says can help you avoid becoming a victim of romance scams:
- Never send money to anyone you have only communicated with online or by phone.
- Be careful what you post and make public online.
- When starting a new relationship, take it slow, and ask lots of questions.
- Be alert to those who seem too perfect or quickly ask you to leave a dating service or social media site to communicate by other means.
- Beware of those who want to isolate you from friends and family.
- Don’t share inappropriate photos or financial information that could later be used to extort you.
- Be suspicious if the individual promises to meet in person but then never does.
To report romance scams or other types of online crimes, victims can make a report here.
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