NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Although Valentine’s Day doesn’t increase romance scams, the FBI says it’s a great time to remind the community of financial dangers found in online dating.
“There can’t be a man in this world that horrible to have purposefully done what he’s done to me,” says one unnamed victim interviewed by the FBI. According to their site, she was duped out of $2 million online by a man she’d never met.
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In the age of social distancing, Christina Pullen, a spokeswoman for the FBI, says the pandemic has also created a growing gateway for scammers to prey on those looking for a connection online.
Official’s say it usually goes like this: you meet someone on the internet, but they live far away so you can’t meet in person. You continue to talk online and get closer every day.
Next thing you know, they need an emergency loan – and they ask you for the cash. Common stories include aspects of the military, construction industry and legal fees.
According to the FBI, the scammer’s goal is to establish a relationship and gain trust. Some may even propose marriage and make plans to meet in person, but it doesn’t happen. Then comes the need for financial assistance.
The FBI believes the “asking for money” part is a major red flag.
Another growing scam FBI investigators see is when a person is unknowingly recruited to be a “money mule.” They say this is when a victim transfers money illegally on behalf of others.
To do this, a criminal may groom their victims over time and convince them to open bank accounts under the guise of sending or receiving funds.
There are several ways to protect yourself from falling victim to a scammer:
- Never give money or financial information to someone you’ve never met in person
- If you suspect a relationship is a scam stop all contact immediately
- Reverse search a person’s profile image and be wary of overly edited photo’s
- If you’re a victim report it to the FBI at IC3.GOV
Pullen says it’s common for many victims to feel embarrassed coming forward to report the incident, but says they shouldn’t be.
“These scammers are very sophisticated and very persuasive.”
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