Avoid being victimized by romance scams

Valentine’s Day and the days leading up to it can be exciting, but it can also lead to heartbreak, embarrassment and financial loss.  Well-rehearsed criminals search dating sites, apps, chat rooms and other social media networking sites attempting to build “relationships” for the sole purpose of getting your money or your personally identifiable information.

FBI Richmond suggests taking these points into consideration to avoid becoming a victim.

  • Only use reputable, nationally-recognized dating websites; however be aware that scammers may be using them too.
  • Research photos and profiles in other online search tools and ask questions.
  • Never provide your financial information, loan money, nor allow your bank accounts to be used for transfers of funds.
  • Do not allow attempts to isolate you from family and friends.
  • Do not blindly believe the stories of severe life circumstances, tragedies, family deaths, injuries, or other hardships geared at keeping your interest and concern.
  • If you are planning to meet someone in person you have met online, meet in a public place and let someone know where you will be and what time you should return home.
  • If you are traveling to a foreign country to meet someone check the State Department’s Travel Advisories beforehand (http://travel.state.gov/), provide your itinerary to family and friends, and do not travel alone if possible.

Victims may be hesitant to report being taken advantage of due to embarrassment, shame or humiliation.  It’s important to remember – romance scams can happen to anyone at any time.

If you suspect your online relationship is a scam, cease all contact immediately.  If you are a victim who has already sent money, immediately report the incident to your financial institution, file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crimes Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov), and contact law enforcement.

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