This Valentine’s Day, love is in the air, but not everyone is experiencing true love. Romance scams are on the rise, and they cost Americans a record $1 billion last year.
According to cyber experts, con artists are becoming more cunning in how they approach their targets, which allows them to steal more money.
Love is in the air as Valentine’s Day draws near. However, those who might be looking for love online should be aware of a warning from Department of Homeland Security investigators.
“It’s a sizable criminal organization. Here, we’re talking about international transnational criminal organizations, “said Brad Hannam, an investigator for Homeland Security.
According to Hannam, romance scams defraud Americans of millions of dollars every year, and because the con artists are typically based in Ghana, Nigeria, and the Ivory Coast, it is challenging to identify and prosecute them.
Knowing the warning signs, such as the immediate show of attention and affection, is the best way to avoid becoming a target.
“We refer to the act of pouring on excessive amounts of love and tying the target into them as “love bombing.” And just as it appears that they are about to steal the victim’s heart, they start after their money,” Hannam remarked.
“Usually with a story about needing money to finish a project or to buy a plane ticket to visit them,” she said.
Never send money to a potential match that you haven’t met in person, advises Hannam.
Do a Google search on the images they send and the narrative they provide if they ask you to communicate with them outside of the dating site.
“We want them immediately, once they believe they’ve been scammed, cease all communications. We want them to block the offender on social media, or whatever platform they’re talking to them. And then go to their local police,” Hannam said.
Due to the fact that most victims are too ashamed to report the crime, investigators believe that the number of victims of sweetheart scams is likely much higher than we currently realize.
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