The FBI issued a warning as they predict a spike in romance scams due to the upcoming Valentine’s Day this weekend. The FBI’s internet crime complaint center (IC3) reported romance scams have resulted in some of the highest amounts of reported financial crimes. In 2020, over 20,000 complaints were received categorized as romance scams. Scammers connect with victims on dating sites and apps and use well-rehearsed stories of severe life circumstances and hardships to gain sympathy from victims. They often send flowers or gifts to further connect with victims and legitimize the relationship. Once rapport is established, the scammer asks the victim to send them money to overcome a situation or hardship. In other instances, the scammer asked the victim to help complete a money transfer, and the victim is unknowingly laundering money for the scammer. The scammers may also be using the technique to steal personally identifiable information from victims instead of money, and then committing identity theft fraud such as filing false unemployment claims or taking income tax refunds.
It is important for individuals to be aware of what information they share on social media platforms. Scammers will collect these details and use them to better understand how to target a victim. Users on dating apps and sites should not share financial information or send money to other users they do not know personally. Be cautious if an individual agrees to meet in person but always cancels last minute due to a claimed emergency, never actually going through with a meeting. Never help anyone move money through your own account or someone else’s. It may be an attempt to launder money and cause an individual to become an unwitting money mule for the criminal.