FBI warns residents of online romance scams

BOSTON, MASS (WLNE) – The FBI Boston Division continues to work on raising awareness of online romance scams, also known as confidence fraud.

According to the FBI, the criminals involved in this scam are experts in what they do and they spend hours honing their verbal skills and relying on well-rehearsed scripts.

In this scam, criminals take advantage of people looking for companionship on dating websites, apps, chat rooms with the sole goal of obtaining financial or personal information.

The FBI says the increased isolation brought on by the current pandemic has resulted in more people looking for love online.

In some of these cases, victims may be recruited, unknowingly, to transfer money illegally on behalf of others.

“The consequences of these scams are often financially and emotionally devastating to victims who rarely get their money back and may not have the ability to recover from the financial loss,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division.

“While we recognize that it may be embarrassing for victims to report this type of fraud, it’s important to do so, so that the FBI and our law enforcement partners can do everything in our power to ensure these online imposters are held accountable”, he continued.

Nationwide in 2020, almost 23,768 complaints categorized as romance scams were reported to IC3 (4,295 more than the previous year), and the losses associated with those complaints total approximately $605 million.

In the Boston Division which includes all of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island,  a total of 569 complaints were filed, costing victims a total of $11.7 million.

361 victims in Massachusetts reported financial losses totaling $8,006,260.

80 victims in Rhode Island lost approximately $1,381,336.

The FBI stated the following points:

  • Beware if the individual seems too perfect, or quickly asks you to communicate “offline.”
  • Beware if the individual attempts to isolate you from friends and family.
  • Beware if the individual claims to be working and living far away, whether it’s on the other side of the country or overseas.
  • Beware if the individual promises to meet in person, but then always cancels because of some emergency.
  • Beware if you’re asked to send inappropriate photos or financial information that could later be used to extort you.
  • Never send money to anyone you don’t know personally.
  • Never help anyone move money through your own account or someone else’s. You could become an unwitting money mule for the perpetrator helping to carry out other theft and fraud schemes.

If anybody suspects an online relationship is a scam,  they are told to stop all contact immediately.

If residents have already sent money,they are asked to  file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

©WLNE-TV/ABC6 2021

Categories: Massachusetts, News, Rhode Island