The rising spate of romance scams has left victims not only with broken hearts but empty wallets topping over $133,400,000 as of July this year, the FBI says.
A romance scam, a variant of cyber fraud called Yahoo-Yahoo in Nigeria, has been on the rise since the beginning of this year with a new twist that involves internet scammers defrauding victims by persuading their target individuals to send money to allegedly invest or trade in cryptocurrency.
The FBI Internet Crime Complaint Centre (IC3) has received over 1,800 complaints, related to online romance scams, resulting in losses of approximately $133,400,00 between January 1 and July 31, this year alone, according to a public announcement by the US law enforcement agency.
According to trends recorded by the FBI, “the scammer’s initial contact is typically made via dating apps and other social media sites.”
Once this is achieved, “the scammer gains the confidence and trust of the victim—through establishing an online relationship—and then claims to have knowledge of cryptocurrency investment or trading opportunities that will result in substantial profits.”
According to the FBI, the “scammer directs the victim to a fraudulent website or application for an investment opportunity. After the victim has invested an initial amount on the platform and sees an alleged profit, the scammers allow the victim to withdraw a small amount of money, further gaining the victim’s trust.”
After the successful withdrawal, the agency says the scammer then instructs the victim to invest larger amounts of money and often expresses the need to “act fast.”
Then comes the red flag “when the victim is ready to withdraw funds again, the scammers create reasons why this cannot happen.
“The victim is informed additional taxes or fees need paid, or the minimum account balance has not been met to allow a withdrawal. This entices the victim to provide additional funds. Sometimes, a “customer service group” gets involved, which is also part of the scam. Victims are not able to withdraw any money, and the scammers most often stop communicating with the victim after they cease to send additional funds”, according to FBI.
Romance Scams: Five Tips to Protect Yourself:
To keep romance scam fraudsters in check the FBI has outlined the underlisted precautions to take:
- Never send money, trade, or invest per the advice of someone you have solely met online.
- Do not disclose your current financial status to unknown and untrusted individuals.
- Do not provide your banking information, Social Security Number, copies of your identification or passport, or any other sensitive information to anyone online or to a site you do not know is legitimate.
- If an online investment or trading site is promoting unbelievable profits, it is most likely that—unbelievable.
- Be cautious of individuals who claim to have exclusive investment opportunities and urge you to act fast.