The Federal Bureau of Investigation wants people to be aware of romance scams as Valentine’s Day approaches.

According to the FBI, these scams typically involve a fake online identity to gain the victim’s affection and trust.  The scammer uses this connection to manipulate and/or steal from the victim. 

These fake profiles can seem very genuine and are present on most dating and social media sites.  Scammers will try to make a connection as quickly as possible and may even propose marriage and plans to meet in person that will never happen.  Eventually, they will begin asking the victim for money. 

According to the FBI, the scammers often claim to be working on construction projects outside the U.S. in order to avoid meeting face-to-face.  This also makes it more plausible when they claim to have a sudden “unexpected legal fee” or “medical emergency.” 

The FBI warns that if someone you meet online wants access to your bank information to deposit money, they are likely using your account to carry out fraud and other theft schemes.

In order to avoid these types of scams, the FBI recommends the following:

  • Be careful what you post and make public online. Scammers can use details shared on social media and dating sites to better understand and target you.
  • Research the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the image, name, or details have been used elsewhere.
  • Go slowly and ask lots of questions.
  • Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or social media site to communicate directly.
  • Beware if the individual attempts to isolate you from friends and family or requests inappropriate photos or financial information that could later be used to extort you.
  • Beware if the individual promises to meet in person but then always comes up with an excuse why he or she can’t. If you haven’t met the person after a few months, for whatever reason, you have good reason to be suspicious.
  • Never send money to anyone you have only communicated with online or by phone.