Last week the Federal Bureau of Investigation warned the public that online dating scams targeting lonely and lovelorn people are on the rise. The FBI plans to investigate and prosecute online dating scammers with their new anti-crime initiative “Operation Romeo and Juliet.”
According to the FBI, an ever-increasing number of Americans from every age group are signing up with online dating sites and apps, and more and more of these people are being scammed out of their money by criminals who also use online dating services for ill-gotten financial gain. These scams usually end in financial loss and heartbreak for the victim.
Unfortunately, online dating crimes can be hard for some people to spot before it is too late and the criminals can be difficult to catch since many of them operate from foreign countries. People from all different age groups and demographic groups can fall victim to these scams.
An ounce of prevention can go a long way towards stopping online dating scammers. The FBI works with online dating services to stop would-be scammers, but they also want to help educate the public about the warning signs for potential online dating scams as well as ways to protect themselves.
Some simple tips to avoid online scams:
- Most online dating scams begin with compliments and promises of commitment, but end with requests for money.
- Never give out your personal information to people online, especially information for bank accounts.
- Do not mail or transfer money to people that you have not met personally and cannot trust.
Recently, an 83-year-old woman was conned out of $23,000 of her savings by a man who fooled her into wiring the money to Malaysia. In addition to losing money, victims can get also ensnared in money laundering scams where they unwittingly act as “money mules” that help transfer stolen funds between two other parties. In addition, some victims of online scams have committed suicide over the stress from these schemes.
According tot he FBI’s statistics, there have been more than 17,600 people victimized by online financial scams that totaled $2.3 billion in financial losses between October 2013 to February 2016. Those are a lot of victims and a lot of monetary losses in a very short period of time.