FBI warns of scams ahead of Valentine’s Day
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The FBI Columbia field office is warning people of potential romantic scams ahead of Valentine’s Day.
FBI specialist Kevin M. Wheeler stated scammers will try to swindle people online who are looking for companionship this time of year.
According to annual data collected by the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), South Carolinians lost $6.8 million dollars to confidence fraud and romance scams that year. Investigators with IC3 believe that romantic scams will increase due to recent trends.
“Cyber criminals use any information they can find about you to gain your trust, build a relationship, and ultimately steal your money or personal identifiable information (PII),” said Susan Ferensic, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Columbia Division. “We want the public to be well informed about how these scams occur and how they can better protect themselves.”
If you think you are in a romantic exploitative situation, be aware of the red flags:
- The scammer makes promises to meet in person but gives excuses as to why they can’t.
- The scammer will ask for money once they gain your trust. Typically, they explain they have an owed debt, need financial assistance, or they ask for travel funds.
- The scammer will request money through methods that make it hard to be traced and hard to get back.
- The scammer may ask to leave a dating service or social media site to communicate directly.
Here are ways you can protect yourself from becoming a victim to a romantic scam:
- Be careful what you post and make public online.
- If you suspect a scam, stop communicating with the person immediately.
- Conduct a reverse image search of the person’s photo(s). If it is associated with another name or profile, it is likely a scam.
- Take things slow and ask a lot of questions.
- Never send money to someone you have only communicated with online or by phone.
If you believe you are involved in a romantic scam or have fallen victim to a scam, please report the incident to the FBI’s IC3 by visiting www.ic3.gov.
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