The FBI is warning consumers to be on the lookout for romantic scammers asking them to send money to invest or trade in cryptocurrency.
The FBI said that in the first seven months of this year, its Internet Crime Complaints Center received more than 1,800 online dating scam complaints that resulted in losses totaling 133.4 millions of dollars.
The FBI says crooks typically first contact victims through dating apps and social media sites and then gain their trust by establishing a relationship online. They then claim to be aware of profitable cryptocurrency investment or trading opportunities and direct the victim to a bogus website or app.
After the victim invests an initial amount and sees a profit, the crooks allow the victim to withdraw a small amount of money, thus boosting their confidence. But then the crooks ask the victim to invest larger sums of money, often adding that they must act quickly, according to the FBI.
But the next time the victim wants to withdraw money, the crooks give them a plethora of reasons why they can’t. They may say that additional taxes or fees need to be paid, or that a minimum account balance has not been met. This causes the victim to invest more money. And once the victim stops investing, scammers usually cut off all contact, according to the FBI.
How to avoid getting ripped off
- Don’t send money to people you’ve met only online, and don’t make investments based on their advice. Also, don’t talk about your finances with people you don’t trust.
- Do not give out your banking information, social security number, ID, passport information, or any other personal information to anyone online or to a website that you don’t know is legitimate.
- If an investment, online or not, sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And beware of people who tell you that you need to act immediately to seize the investment opportunity. They are counting on you not to think before you act.