According to the FBI, more than 12,500 complaints related to romance scams with losses totaling $203 million were reported in 2015.
Scammers continue to fake online dating profiles using photos and/or other people to lure victims. Once connected, the scammers often say they are from the U.S. but are temporarily traveling or working abroad. In a very short amount of time, the scammers profess their love and manipulate the victim’s emotions with fake stories and their need for money. Far too often these scammers are successful and convince victims to send them money or provide online banking login credentials.
Romance scam variations include:
- Victims are duped into providing online banking login credentials to the scammers under the guise the scammers do not have access to financial services in the foreign country in which they are traveling or working. Once credentials are provided the scammer logs into the account and sets up an external account to account type of transaction.
- The scammer logs into the victim’s account and requests mobile remote deposit capture service. Once the account is set-up for mobile remote deposit capture, the scammer transmits images of fraudulent checks for deposit to the victim’s account.
With both types of scams, the victim is usually instructed to send the funds to the scammer via Western Union or MoneyGram. The debits or checks are subsequently returned unpaid.
If you pursue an online dating relationship, use these tips to help protect yourself:
- Research the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the material has been used elsewhere.
- Go slow and ask a lot of questions.
- 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 he or she can’t. If you haven’t met the person after a few months, for whatever reason, you have good reason to be suspicious.
- Never send money to anyone you don’t know personally.
When it comes to fraud, being vigilant is our number one weapon. Please share this alert with your friends and family.
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