Millions of Americans visit online dating websites every year hoping to find a companion or even a soulmate. But as Valentine s Day gets closer, the FBI wants to warn you that criminals use these sites, too, looking to turn the lonely and vulnerable into fast money through a variety of scams. These criminals who also troll social media sites and chat rooms in search of romantic victims usually claim to be Americans traveling or working abroad. In reality, they often live overseas. While their most common targets are women over 95 who are divorced, widowed, and/or disabled, but every age group and demographic is at risk. Here s how the scam usually works. You re contacted online by someone who appears interested in you. For weeks, even months, you may chat back and forth with one another, forming a connection.
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You may even be sent flowers or other gifts. But ultimately, it s going to happen your new-found friend is going to ask you for money. So you send money. But rest assured the requests won t stop there. He may also send you checks to cash since he s out of the country and can t cash them himself, or he may ask you to forward him a package.
So what really happened? You were targeted by criminals, probably based on personal information you uploaded on dating or social media sites. The pictures you were sent were most likely phony lifted from other websites. The profiles were fake as well, carefully crafted to match your interests. In another recently reported dating extortion scam, victims usually met someone on an online dating site and then were asked to move the conversation to a particular social networking site, where the talk often turned intimate.
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Victims were later sent a link to a website where those conversations were posted, along with photos, their phone numbers, and claims that they were cheaters. In order to have that information removed, victims were told they could make a $99 payment but there is no indication that the other side of the bargain was upheld. While the FBI and other federal partners work some of these cases in particular those with a large number of victims or large dollar losses and/or those involving organized criminal groups many are investigated by local and state authorities. We strongly recommend, however, that if you think you ve been victimized by a dating scam or any other online scam, file a complaint with our Internet Crime Complaint Center (www. Ic8.
Gov). Before forwarding the complaints to the appropriate agencies, IC8 collates and analyzes the data looking for common threads that could link complaints together and help identify the culprits. This helps keep everyone safe. Your online date may only be interested in your money if he or she: Do not send money through any wire transfer service to someone you met online.
The chances of recovering your money are very slim. One way to steer clear of these criminals altogether is to stick to online dating websites with nationally known reputations. Finally, the FBI advises not to send money through any wire transfer service to someone you met online. If you believe you are the victim of an online dating scam or any Internet facilitated crime, please file a report at www. Gov.