A new report by the Federal Trade Commission reveals thousands of unsuspecting lovestruck people fell prey to a romance scam last year.
Approximately 70,000 victims collectively lost $1.3 billion, according to the report. The IRS Criminal Investigation’s Atlanta Field Office is sharing warnings about the different types of romance scams.
“Investigating criminals defrauding innocent victims through romance scams is just one of the various crimes our special agents investigate,” Demetrius Hardeman, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation said in the report. “These scams leave many victims financially devastated and emotionally manipulated.”
The office says criminals create fake online profiles, usually on social media applications and dating websites, and attempt to build phony emotional attachments until a potential victim is comfortable sending them money. Many scammers find victims by pulling online public information, which they use to do research.
“It is important that people are careful of people they meet through social media sites,” Hardeman said. “Many of these scammers are very patient and will wait weeks or months to gain a victim’s trust.”
Here are some tips the office says can help you avoid becoming a victim of romance scams:
- Never send money to anyone you have only communicated with online or by phone.
- Be careful what you post and make public online.
- When starting a new relationship, take it slow, and ask lots of questions.
- Be alert to those who seem too perfect or quickly ask you to leave a dating service or social media site to communicate by other means.
- Beware of those who want to isolate you from friends and family.
- Don’t share inappropriate photos or financial information that could later be used to extort you.
- Be suspicious if the individual promises to meet in person but then never does.
“Many of the criminals involved with romance scams are part of an organized crime group,” Hardeman said. “People who suspect they have become victims of romance scams can make a report to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.”
To report romance scams or other types of online crimes, victims can make a report here.
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