The FBI's Phoenix division is warning about "romance scams" ahead of this Valentine's Day on Sunday.
Also called "confidence fraud," these scams involve a criminal adopting a fake identity to gain someone's trust, then using their phony relationship to steal from the victim. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, 560 Arizonans reported collected losses of more than $12 million in connection with confidence fraud/romance scams in 2020.
These scam artists are present on almost every dating and social media site, and often begin interactions attempting to earn trust, but often never actually meet in person. According to the FBI, these scam artists often say they are in the building or construction industry and are engaged in projects outside the U.S. That makes it easier to avoid meeting in person—and more plausible when they ask for money for a medical emergency or unexpected legal fee.
The following tips may be helpful to consider if you develop a romantic relationship with someone you meet online:
- Research the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the material has been used elsewhere.
- Never provide your financial information, loan money, nor allow your bank accounts to be used for transfers of funds.
- Never send money to anyone you don’t personally know.
- If you are traveling to a foreign country to meet someone, check the State Department’s Travel Advisories beforehand (travel.state.gov), provide your itinerary to family and friends, and do not travel alone if possible.
- Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or Facebook to go “offline.”
- Beware if the individual attempts to isolate you from friends and family or requests inappropriate photos or financial information that could later be used to extort you.
- Beware if the individual promises to meet in person but then always comes up with an excuse why they can’t.
- If you haven’t met the person after a few months - for any reason - it's wise to be suspicious.
- If you plan 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.
For more information on romance scams, visit: fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-scams-and-crimes/romance-scams