While Valentine’s Day and other opportunities for romance can be exciting, the FBI has issued a warning, that if you’re not careful, this time of year could lead to heartbreak, embarrassment, and financial loss.
This most recent warning from the FBI reminds us that criminals search dating sites, apps, chat rooms, and other social media networking sites attempting to build “relationships” for the sole purpose of getting money or personally identifiable information from their victims. This type of data harvesting is known as “confidence fraud” and losses for last year alone were in the millions.
So, to protect yourself from becoming a victim, the FBI has released the following 7-tips to help us stay safe:
- Only use reputable, nationally-recognized dating websites. While scammers may be using these “name brand” sites as well, large dating sites often have better security in place and can minimize your risk of getting scammed by a criminal.
- Research photos and profiles of your prospective partner in other online services and be sure to ask questions. Nobody likes a liar.
- Never provide your financial information, loan money, or allow your bank accounts to be used for transfers of funds, period. Let me repeat that. Never provide your financial information, loan money, or allow your bank accounts to be used for transfers of funds, period.
- Do not allow attempts from someone online to isolate you from family and friends. Usually your friends and family are the voice of reason. Don’t shut them out.
- Don’t just blindly believe wild stories of crazy life circumstances, tragedies, family deaths, injuries, or other hardships. Those tactics are designed by criminals to keep your interest and get worried. Don’t fall for it.
- If you are planning to meet the person you met online, meet in a public place and let someone know where you will be and what time you should return home.
- If you are traveling to a foreign country to meet someone, check the State Department’s Travel Advisories beforehand (http://travel.state.gov/). Also, provide your itinerary to family and friends and if possible, try not to travel alone.
According to the FBI, victims may be hesitant to report being taken advantage of. After all, it’s embarrassing, so it’s important to remember that romance scams can happen to anyone at any time.
Stay safe out there this Valentine’s Day!