FBI warns about online romance scams
As Valentine's Day approaches, the FBI has a warning for people looking for love in online places — the agency received nearly 15,000 complaints about romance scams in 2016 and the losses associated with those complaints was more than $230 million.
That comes out to more than $15,300 per broken heart, but some victims have lost considerably more. In a local case , an online swindler conned eight women out of more than $800,000 and in a Texas case highlighted by the FBI, a woman lost $2 million.
Pennsylvania was one of five states with the most victims in 2016. The others were California, Texas, Florida and New York.
The scams often follow a predictable pattern, and being alert to that pattern can help people avoid becoming victims.
The criminals, who are often overseas, will steal or manufacture an identity and then troll dating and social media sites. They'll often approach multiple people at the same time to see which ones respond.
They'll have a reason they can't meet in person, usually business in another state or overseas. They will invent a business or customs problem and ask for financial help to resolve, often claiming that once it's resolved they can quickly repay the money and finally meet with the victim in person.
The FBI provides tips for detecting this kind of fraud. In general, the advice is to be wary of anyone you've never met in person who is asking for money.
If you suspect an online relationship is a scam, the FBI recommends cutting off all contact immediately. The agency urges victims of romance scams to file a complaint with its Internet Crime Complaint Center .
Brian Bowling is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-1218, email@example.com or via Twitter @TribBrian.