Crime

Be on the lookout for ‘romance scammers’ who want your wallet, not your heart

Valentine’s Day is almost here, and the FBI has issued a warning to lonely hearts who might go looking for love in all the wrong places, especially on the internet.
Valentine’s Day is almost here, and the FBI has issued a warning to lonely hearts who might go looking for love in all the wrong places, especially on the internet. joshua.bessex@gateline.com

Valentine’s Day is almost here, and the FBI has issued a warning to lonely hearts who might go looking for love in all the wrong places, especially on the internet.

The FBI on Friday reminded people who go online to seek romance to be on the lookout for scammers who are more interested in your bank account than your heart.

“Romance scams” involve thieves who take advantage of those looking for romantic partners on dating websites, apps and social media. They gain access to financial or personal information, Shelley Lynch, a spokeswoman with the FBI in Charlotte, said in a news release.

The search for love can turn into a costly mistake. Romance scams result in the highest amount of financial losses for victims compared with other online crimes, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

In 2016, the center received nearly 15,000 complaints about romance scams. That was about 2,500 more than in 2015, with the financial losses exceeding $230 million.

The FBI offered several tips for those who develop a romantic relationship with someone online:

▪ Research the person’s photo and profile to see if the material has been used elsewhere.

▪ Go slow and ask questions.

▪ Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or social media site to go “offline.”

▪ Beware if the person attempts to isolate you from friends and family.

▪ Beware if the individual promises to meet you in person, but then always comes up with an excuse why he or she can’t. If you haven’t met the person after a few months, for whatever reason, you might want to be suspicious.

▪ Never send money to anyone you don’t know personally.

The FBI did not address one-night stands.

Thomasi McDonald: 919-829-4533, @thomcdonald

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