February is traditionally prime time for romance, but it’s also a time when internet scammers are out looking for victims. Experts advise Minnesotans to proceed with caution before they let their hearts – and their finances – get tangled up in a romantic scheme.
Special Agent Garrett Croon with the FBI said millions of Americans visit online dating websites every year hoping to find a companion or even a soulmate. And he said some people are more vulnerable to scammers than others.
“The statistics the FBI has shows the biggest demographic group that is vulnerable for this type of scam is 40- to 60-year-old females – possibly widowed, divorced, disabled,” Croon warned. “That’s the target group for these criminals.”
He said these scammers trick their victims into thinking they’re involved in a serious relationship then find clever ways to ask for money. His advice is to never send money to someone you haven’t met in person.
Scammers may target several victims at the same time, Croon said. And they’re good at pretending they’re in love before they ask for anything.
How to spot a scammer
“That person you met online is now asking you for cash, for a hardship. ‘Oh, I need my visa to get back to the United States,’ or ‘My car broke down,’ or ‘Oh my gosh, my mom has to have immediate surgery and I don’t have the funds to cover it,’” he said.
According to Croon, there are some red flags you can watch for to spot a scammer: Beware if the person online is professing love right off the bat and pressing you to leave the dating website where you met so you can communicate using personal e-mail or instant messaging; if the person sends you a photograph of himself or herself that looks like something from a glamour magazine; if the person claims to be from the U.S. but is traveling or working overseas; or if the person makes plans to visit you but is then unable to do so because of a tragic event. And he said, always be wary of anyone who asks for money for any reason.
More information is available at RomanceScams.org.