The Federal Bureau of Investigation has an important message for United States citizens on Valentine’s Day. Federal authorities are warning the public about “romance scams” that could cost individuals thousands of dollars. Members of the FBI say scammers are targeting individuals who are lonely and therefore, vulnerable, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“[Scammers] take advantage of people looking for companionship or romantic partners on dating websites, apps, chat rooms, and social networking sites with the sole goal of obtaining access to their financial or personal identifying information,” a notice posted on the FBI’s website reads.
In 2020, the FBI compiled a list of 23,798 romance scam complaints. According to the report, that is an increase of nearly 5,000 such complaints recorded in 2019. Furthermore, victims lost more than $600 million because of these scams.
Making matters worse, victims are often embarrassed and unwilling to come forward. As a result, scammers are able to continue working without much interference. Moving forward, authorities are hoping more people will come forward to avoid an increase in scams as the pandemic surges forward.
“The consequences of these scams are often financially and emotionally devastating to victims who rarely get their money back and may not have the ability to recover from the financial loss,” Joseph Bonavolonta of the FBI’s Boston Division stated.
“While we recognize that it may be embarrassing for victims to report this type of fraud, it’s important to do so, so that the FBI and our law enforcement partners can do everything in our power to ensure these online imposters are held accountable.”