WASHINGTON — Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate love and affection, and to exchange cards, candy and flowers. But for thieves it could be a day to prey on vulnerable people looking online for love.
The FBI is warning people about the risks of romance scams, especially at this time of year. When it comes to internet crimes, they said, romance scams top all the others in terms of financial losses — more than $230 million lost in 2017.
Victor Oloyede, 42, of Laurel, Maryland, was sentenced to more than 19 years in prison last year — on Valentine’s Day — for an online fraud conspiracy in which thieves searched dating websites to form phony romantic relationships in order to defraud victims.
Prosecutors said the scam netted the thieves millions of dollars.
The FBI said romance scammers look for victims on dating websites, apps and social media.
They recommend several tips to avoid being a victim:
- Research the person’s photo and profile, make sure they are who they say they are
- Go slow and ask questions
- Beware if someone seems too perfect or quickly asks to take the conversation offline
- Be wary of anyone who attempts to isolate you from friends or family
- Beware of someone who promises to meet but always comes up with an excuse as to why they can’t meet
- Never send money to anyone you don’t personally know
If you think you’ve been the victim of a romance scam, you can file a complaint Victims of a romance scam can file a complaint at the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.