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Scammers Use Love to Find Victims

Be on the lookout for scammers looking to exploit fake relationships this Valentine's Day. (maf04/Flickr)
Be on the lookout for scammers looking to exploit fake relationships this Valentine's Day. (maf04/Flickr)
February 14, 2017

BOISE, Idaho – February has a reputation for being "prime time" for romance but it's also a time when scammers are looking for victims. Experts advise Missourians to proceed with caution before they let their hearts - and their finances - get tangled up in a romance scheme.

Special Agent Garrett Croon with the FBI says millions of Americans visit online dating websites every year hoping to find a companion or even a soulmate. Croon says 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," he said. "That's the target group for these criminals."

Croon says 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.

Croon says these scammers may be targeting several victims at the same time, and they're good at pretending they're in love before they ask for anything.

"That person you met online is now asking you for cash, for a hardship," he added. "'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.'"

Croon says there are some red flags to watch for to spot a scammer. They include the person online professing love right off the bat, and pressing you to leave the dating website you met through so you can communicate using personal e-mail or instant messaging. Or, the person sends you a photograph of himself or herself that looks like something from a glamour magazine; or claims to be from the U.S. but is traveling or working overseas; makes plans to visit you but is then unable to do so because of a tragic event; and Croon says be wary of anyone who asks for money for any reason.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID