Romance scams: Are you a catch, or are you getting catfished?

Romance scams: Are you a catch, or are you getting catfished?

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - We all want to feel loved this time of year but the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is urging people to use their gut feelings when it comes to online dating.

“If you’ve been talking to someone online, on social media, on a dating app, for a really short period of time and it seems like everything they are saying is the right thing that you want to hear, it should be a red flag to you and is probably too good to be true, ” said Shelley Lynch, spokeswoman for the FBI.

Online romance scams, also called confidence fraud, spike around Valentine’s Day. According to the FBI, scammers prey on the emotionally vulnerable in an attempt to steal financial or personal identifying information from the victims.

Scammers contact individuals looking for relationships on dating platforms such as apps, websites and social media.

“You really have to be aware of information you put out there about yourself," says Lynch. "You got to trust your instinct and when people are pushing you to make a quick decision about something or ‘I have to get this money right now’ or ‘I’m not going to be able to talk to you anymore, we’re going to break up’ that kind of thing, those are all red flags.”

According to the FBI’s Crime Complaint Center (IC3), this type of fraud has the highest amount of financial losses to victims compared to other online crimes.

In 2019, the amount of losses from these scams across the United States totaled over $495 million. From Feb. 2019 to Feb. 2020, North Carolina reported just under $6.5 million.

“Romance scams are typically a smaller number at a time,” said Lynch. “A couple of hundred dollars here, a thousand dollars there, and once you pay them they never stop calling.”

If you’re looking to pursue a relationship with someone met online, consider these tips from the FBI:

  • Research the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the material has been used elsewhere.
  • Go slow and ask questions.
  • Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or social media site to go “offline.”
  • Beware if the individual attempts to isolate you from friends and family or requests.
  • 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 don’t know personally. If you believe you are a victim of a romance scam, file a complaint online at www.ic3.gov.

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