Scammers target online victims before Valentine’s Day

As Valentine’s Day approaches, the Omaha FBI is issuing a warning to people looking for love online.

Fraudsters will use poems, flowers, and other gifts to capture their victims, all while declaring their “eternal love.”

In 2022, more than 19,000 romance fraud victims reported losses of more than $700 million.

Romance scams occur when criminals adopt a fake online identity to gain a victim’s affection and trust, then ask for money.

These scammers are featured on most dating and social media sites. They are experts at what they do and will seem genuine, thoughtful and believable.

Scammers will use stories of serious life circumstances, tragedy, deaths in the family, injuries to themselves, or other hardships to keep their victims concerned and involved in their schemes.

These are all lies designed to take money from unsuspecting victims.

In another scheme, scammers ask victims to receive funds in the form of a cashier’s check, money order, or wire transfer, claiming they are out of the country and unable to cash the tools or receive the funds directly.

Fraudsters ask victims to redirect funds to them or to an associate they owe money to. In these scams, victims risk losing money and may incur other expenses, such as bank fees and fines. In some cases, they face prosecution as a money mule.

People who are looking for love and companionship are the target victims of this online scam.

People in all demographics can fall victim to it. Criminals target men and women over 40 who are divorced, widowed, elderly or disabled. The scam usually begins with an “innocent” contact online and builds from there.

Those who engage in online dating should be aware of these patterns and exercise common sense before sending money to people they meet online.

If you develop a romantic relationship online, look out for the following warning signs:

– The individual urges you to leave the dating site where you met to communicate exclusively via email or instant messaging.

— Only use dating sites with a national reputation, but assume scammers are trolling even the most reputable dating and social media sites.

“Go slowly and ask questions.

— Search the individual’s profile and photos using other online search tools to ensure that someone else’s profile has not been spoofed or that the same presentation is not being used on multiple victims at the same time.

— The individual asks you for money. Never send money to someone you met online that you haven’t met in person.

— It might take weeks or months to get to the point where they ask for money, but they will.

– Money is always desperately needed; there’s always one urgent need, and then another, and another, with a promise to pay you back soon, but it never happens.

If you suspect an online relationship is a scam, immediately cut off all contact. If you are the victim of a romance scam, file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at and

contact your local FBI Omaha office at 402-493-8688.

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