FBI warns people to be wary of online romance scams

People searching for online romance should be wary of Internet scammers trying to pick their pockets, according to a warning issued by the FBI.

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center said romance scams result in the highest amount of financial losses to victims when compared with other online crimes. In 2016, almost 15,000 complaints categorized as romance scams were reported to the FBI, resulting in losses of more than $230 million.

“If you suspect an online relationship is a scam, stop all contact immediately,” said Timothy Slater, special agent in charge of the FBI Washington field office’s criminal division. “We recognize that it may be embarrassing for victims to report this type of fraud scheme because of the personal relationships that are developed, but we ask for victims to come forward so the FBI can ensure that these online impostors are brought to justice.”

Tips for staying safe during an online romance include researching the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the material has been used elsewhere and taking it slowly and asking a lot of questions. People should be wary if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to go offline.

Internet romantics also should beware if someone tries to isolate them from friends and family or requests inappropriate photos or financial information that could later be used for extortion. It’s also recommended that people never send money to anyone they don’t know.

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

People who suspect that they are victims of a scam should file a complaint with the FBI at www.ic3.gov/default.aspx.

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