Let the lovesick beware: the FBI says online dating sites are also popular targets for scams, as fraudsters use them to lure unsuspecting victims and recruit ‘money mules’.
In this type of fraud, scammers will take advantage of people looking for romantic partners on online dating sites. In hopes of ultimately obtaining access to their financial or personal information.
How online dating scams work
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is working to raise awareness about online romance scams, also called confidence fraud. The FBI cautions everyone who may be romantically involved with a person online because romance scams are very prevalent during this time of year.
According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), online dating scams result in the highest amount of financial losses to victims when compared to other online crimes.
In 2016, almost 15,000 complaints categorized as romance scams were reported to IC3 (nearly 2,500 more than the previous year), and the losses associated with those complaints exceeded $230 million.
Romance scammers create fake profiles and contact their targets through popular social media sites like Instagram and Facebook. The scammers then build a relationship with their targets to earn their trust; sometimes chatting more than several times a day. Then, they make up a story and ask for money.
How to protect yourself
The Federal Trade Commission for Consumer Information published what you need to know about romance scams. The bottom line, however, is to never send money or gifts to a sweetheart you haven’t met in person.
If you think you have been the victim of such a fraud, or if you are in the midst of an online engagement that might not be real, you can contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center or FBI at www.ic3.gov or www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field.
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