With Valentine’s Day around the corner, the Albuquerque FBI Division wants to remind the public to be aware of online romance scams, also called confidence fraud. In this type of fraud, scammers take advantage of people looking for romantic partners on dating websites, apps, or social media, with the ultimate goal of financially exploiting the victims. The consequences of these scams are often financially and emotionally devastating to victims; they rarely get their money back and may not have the ability to recover from the financial loss.
“Social media has become a popular place to meet people, especially when COVID-19 restrictions make face-to-face gatherings difficult,” said James Langenberg, special agent in charge of the Albuquerque FBI Division. “Unfortunately, criminals know that’s where they can find victims, too. Anyone looking for love in cyberspace should make sure they keep their feet on the ground by educating themselves about the risks.”
According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), which provides the public with a means of reporting Internet-facilitated crimes, romance scams result in greater financial losses to victims when compared to most other online crimes. In 2020, almost 24,000 complaints categorized as romance scams were reported to IC3, and the losses associated with those complaints exceeded $605 million. In New Mexico, the IC3 received 189 complaints from victims reporting almost $5.36 million in losses related to romance scams.
Victims may be hesitant to report being taken advantage of due to embarrassment, shame or humiliation. It’s important to remember, romance scams can happen to anyone at any time. The criminals who carry out romance scams are experts at what they do. If you develop a romantic relationship with someone you meet online, consider the following:
Research the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the material has been used elsewhere.
Beware if the individual attempts to isolate you from friends and family or requests.
Go slow and ask questions.
Criminals may try to recruit you to help launder proceeds derived from online scams and frauds or crimes like human trafficking and drug trafficking. This is called a money mule scheme.
Be suspicious if an individual you met on a dating website wants to use your bank account for receiving and forwarding money.
Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or social media site to go “offline.”
If you are planning to meet someone in person you have met online, meet in a public place and let someone know where you will be and what time you should return home.
Never send money to anyone you don’t know personally. If you suspect your online relationship is a scam, cease all contact immediately.
If you are a victim who has already sent money, immediately report the incident to your financial institution, file a complaint with IC3 (www.ic3.gov), and contact law enforcement. More information is available at: