RICHMOND, Va. – FBI Richmond is warning the public of romance scams as Valentine's Day approaches.
“Valentine’s Day and the days leading up to it can be exciting, but it can also lead to heartbreak, embarrassment and financial loss,” FBI officials warn in a release.
Officials say well-rehearsed criminals are using dating sites, apps, social media, and chat rooms to build relationships with individuals for the “sole purpose” of scamming individuals of money or their personal identity.
“It’s important to remember - romance scams can happen to anyone at any time,” officials warn.
FBI Richmond offered seven tips to avoid becoming a victim of these romance scams:
• Only use reputable, nationally-recognized dating websites; however be aware that scammers may be using them too.
• Research photos and profiles in other online search tools and ask questions.
• Never provide your financial information, loan money, nor allow your bank accounts to be used for transfers of funds.
• Do not allow attempts to isolate you from family and friends.
• Do not blindly believe the stories of severe life circumstances, tragedies, family deaths, injuries, or other hardships geared at keeping your interest and concern.
• If you are planning 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.
• If you are traveling to a foreign country to meet someone check the State Department’s Travel Advisories beforehand, provide your itinerary to family and friends, and do not travel alone if possible.
Officials say victims may be hesitant to report being taken advantage of due to embarrassment, shame or humiliation. Despite that, they are urged to cease all contact immediately and report the crime.
If you are a victim who has already sent money, immediately report the incident to your financial institution, file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crimes Complaint Center, and contact law enforcement.