MEMPHIS, TN—Many romance scammers promise love, passion, and a lifetime of happiness, but in reality, they are looking for victims to rob of their savings. The FBI Memphis Field Office is continuously working to raise awareness about online romance scams, also called confidence fraud. In this type of fraud, scammers take advantage of people looking for companionship or romantic partners on dating websites, apps, chat rooms, and social networking sites with the sole goal of obtaining access to their financial or personal identifying information. Romance scams are prevalent, especially during this time of year. Increased isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has also resulted in more people looking for love online.
“The criminals who carry out these scams are experts at what they do and spend hours honing their skills,” said Special Agent in Charge Douglas Korneski of the FBI Memphis Field Office. “The consequences of romance scams are often financially and emotionally devastating to victims.”
If you develop a romantic relationship with someone you meet online, consider the following:
- Research the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the material has been used elsewhere.
- Never provide your financial information, loan money, nor allow your bank accounts to be used for transfers of funds. Never send money to anyone you don’t know personally.
- If you are traveling to a foreign country to meet someone, check the State Department’s Travel Advisories beforehand (http://travel.state.gov/), provide your itinerary to family and friends, and do not travel alone if possible.
- Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or social media platform to go “offline.”
- Beware if the individual attempts to isolate you from family and friends 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.
- 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 suspect your online relationship is a scam, cease all contact immediately. If you are a victim who has already sent money, immediately report the incident to your financial institution. Then inform your local law enforcement agency or FBI Memphis at (901) 747-4300. Victims are also encouraged to file a complaint with the FBI at ic3.gov.