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FBI warns of romance scammers this Valentine's Day

The FBI offers some advice for the lovelorn on this Valentine's Day: The way to heartbreak is through your bank account.

Why it matters: The coronavirus pandemic has mostly left the search for love online, and the FBI says it's seen a rise in reports of scams that seem to offer romance, but are actually seeking to wrangle money or financial information from their victims.

By the numbers: There were 23,768 relationship fraud complaints reported to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center in 2020, 4,295 more than the year prior.

  • They added up to approximately $605 million in financial losses, up from $475 million in 2019.
  • The median loss reported to the Federal Trade Commission is $2,500 — "more than ten times higher than the median loss across all other frauds."

The big picture: The yearlong pandemic has pushed people to dating apps to meet the right person.

  • Match Group — the owner of popular dating apps such as Hinge, Tinder, Match and OkCupid — reported a 12% increase in users in the last quarter of 2020 reaching almost 11 million users, compared to 9.8 million in 2019.
  • Romance scams start in dating apps and websites, as well as on social media, according to the FTC.

The scams can often be "financially and emotionally devastating to victims," Joseph R. Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the FBI Boston Division, said in a release. “While we recognize that it may be embarrassing for victims to report this type of fraud, it’s important to do so."

Protect yourself: Criminals come across as genuine and caring, so before you fall head over heels, consider the following recommendations from the FBI:

  • Do not send money or personal information to anyone you don't know personally.
  • Research the person's profile and pictures to see if they have been used before.
  • Be suspicious of people who refuse to meet in person or decline to show their face.
  • Be wary of any links sent to you — scammers will use malicious links to download your social media login information.
  • If someone's trying to rush a relationship, take it slow and see how they react.

Be smart: Don’t get your heart broken, or your bank account drained, this Valentine’s Day.

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