February is prime time for romance scams, here’s how to avoid becoming a victim

Published: Feb. 7, 2021 at 2:29 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - With all the love in the air ahead of Valentine’s Day, it’s prime time for scammers to take advantage of those feeling lonely. Romance scams happen when a criminal takes on a fake online persona and uses it to gain a victim’s affections and trust. The scammer then uses the illusion of a romantic relationship to manipulate and steal from the victim. The FBI is sharing some tips on how to spot and avoid those scams.

According to the FBI, the scammers are professionals who make themselves seem like genuine, caring individuals. They work extra hard to make the victim feel special and loved, in order to gain trust then eventually ask for money, or say they want to give you money. For instance, a scammer may ask for the victim’s bank account information to deposit money into, when they’re actually taking that information to steal or carry out a fraud scheme.

The FBI says these sorts of con-artists are on every dating and social media site, but there are certain steps you can take, and things to watch out for to avoid becoming a victim. First, if it seems to good to be true, it most likely is. The FBI says heed caution if a person quickly asks to take communication off the dating service or social media site. Also beware of false promises. A person promising to meet in person, but consistently comes up with excuses or never follows through is a red flag.

Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions. Also research the person’s profile, especially the photos. You can use a reverse image search to tell if the photos have been used elsewhere, or are from someone else’s profile. You can do this by dragging the photo into the Google Images search bar.

Beware if the person tries to isolate you from friends and family - anyone who may convince you that talking to this person is a bad idea. The FBI says to also beware if the person request inappropriate photos that can later be used to extort you.

Be careful about what you post online. Giving away too much information about yourself, where you live, or details about your daily life could give scammers information to better understand and target you.

The FBI says if you suspect an online relationship is a scam, stop all communication immediately, and if you are the victim of one, you can file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

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