Sweetheart or scam? FBI warns of dangers in online dating #nigeria | #nigeriascams | #lovescams

STOCK PHOTO: Young man on dating app (iStock/Getty Images)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WMBD) — As Valentine’s Day approaches, the FBI is reminding those looking for love to keep themselves safe from online dating scams and theft.

According to a press release from FBI Springfield on Monday, more than 19,000 Americans fell victims to “romance scams” in 2022, with preliminary estimates showing that victim loss totaled over $739 million.

Illinoisans alone are estimated to have lost over $19 million in scams that target victims on dating sites or apps.

Full reports of internet scam losses can be found online here.

Romance scammers thrive around holidays such as Valentine’s Day. They tend to use well-rehearsed scripts that have been used repeatedly and successfully, with the intention of establishing a relationship as quickly as possible to gain their victim’s trust. These relationships allow the scammer to get close enough to the victim to steal money.

“The FBI continues to educate the public about the potential dangers of online relationships with the hope that fewer people will become victims,” said Springfield Field Office Special Agent in Charge David Nanz. “Fraudsters won’t stop pursuing a victim until the victim calls it quits. Proceed carefully and stay alert to warning signs from the very beginning to avoid the emotional and financial fall-out that accompanies romance scams.”

The FBI compiled the following list of red flags that may indicate a prospective partner is not who they seem to be.

  • You are asked 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 out of 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 and financial 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.
  • A claim they have knowledge of cryptocurrency investments or trading opportunities that will result in substantial profits.

To avoid becoming a victim, the FBI advises dating app/site users to go slow, ask questions, and do your research. For example, a user can search for the name and picture used in an account to verify their identity.

Never give your personal information (Social Security Number, bank accounts, etc.) to a person who you have not met in person. Proceed with caution if you plan to travel to meet up with this person. If you use social media, avoid posting personal information that may give the scammer more details with which to target you.

Finally, if you suspect an online relationship is a scam, stop all contact and file a report with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

Many times, victims may feel embarrassed, ashamed or humiliated and be reluctant to share their victimization with anyone, let alone report it to law enforcement, said the FBI’s press release. However, the FBI encourages anyone who has been victimized by this fraud or unsuccessfully targeted to contact FBI Springfield at 217-522-9675 and file a complaint with the FBI’s IC3. Coming forward will provide law enforcement with the necessary information to ensure online imposters are stopped and brought to justice.

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