The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is warning the elderly and the not so elderly of an influx in catfishing or the “Romance Scam.”

They are real.

The FBI’s warning, Romance Scam — FBI, tells the story of a lady who was befriended at a vulnerable time in her life. The individual who became her confidant. When all was said and done, she had given the criminal over $2 million.

The FBI says, “… romance scams are on the rise: It’s a lucrative and easy crime to commit, and easier still to remain anonymous and beyond the reach of authorities. ‘It’s not like going in a bank and holding a gun to the teller, because there are so many leads that you provide law enforcement when you do that. Even if you are able to get out of the bank, we can probably find out who you are and track you down. But with an Internet crime like this, it’s much more difficult.”

Don’t Become a Victim to a Romance Scam

The criminals who carry out romance scams are experts at what they do. They spend hours honing their skills and sometimes keep journals on their victims to better understand how to manipulate and exploit them.

“Behind the veil of romance, it’s a criminal enterprise like any other,” said Special Agent Christine Beining. “And once a victim becomes a victim, in that they send money, they will often be placed on what’s called a ‘sucker list,’ ” she said. “Their names and identities are shared with other criminals, and they may be targeted in the future.”

To stay safe online, be careful what you post, because scammers can use that information against you. Always use reputable websites, but assume that con artists are trolling even the most reputable dating and social media sites. If you develop a romantic relationship with someone you meet online, consider the following:

  • Research the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the material has been used elsewhere.
  • Go slow and ask lots of questions.
  • Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or Facebook to go “offline.”
  • Beware if the individual attempts to isolate you from friends and family or requests inappropriate photos or financial information that could later be used to extort you.
  • 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 don’t know them, don’t send money,” Beining said. “You will see what their true intentions are after that.”

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

Below we share the three-part discussion with AARP’s Washington State Director, Doug Shadel, who discusses the Romance Scam and how to recognize the signs that the person with whom you are engaged may be grooming you for financial fraud.

 

 

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