Romance scammers are after more than your heart this Valentine’s Day

Millions of people use online dating apps to meet someone. Instead of finding love for Valentine’s Day, many are getting tricked into sending money to someone they don’t know.

It’s called the Romance Scam.

Brian Jacob, a supervisory special agent with the FBI, said ordinary people who use the apps have sent scammers over $700 million in total last year. That’s lower than 2021, when it was roughly $1 billion.

Romance scammers make online accounts to gain a victim’s affection and trust. Then they use the illusion of love to manipulate and steal from their victims. The FBI said the main targets are usually women over 40, who are widowed, divorced, or isolated.

It happens to victims all over the country, including right here in the Capital Region.

As for the scammers? They’re usually overseas.

“Very rarely do we see an arrest made in these cases because the perpetrators aren’t necessarily in the United States,” Jacob said.

Jacob said to try and spot the red flags. You should be looking out for people who are unwilling to meet in person, or someone who won’t give any details about who they are, and where they are.

“If you’re in an online relationship, we ask that you just be aware of what’s being discussed. Is the person not willing to meet you in person, are they distant?” Jacob said.

If you think you’ve been scammed, Jacob said you should call your bank and let them know you’ve sent money to a potential fraudster. Then call your local police station and the FBI to report it.

Although there are a lot of victims who don’t report it.

“Because of embarrassment related to their victimization,” Jacob said.

You should also report a romance scam to the Internet Crime Complaint Center on their website.