On Your Side: Romance scam warning

Published: Feb. 8, 2023 at 6:03 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - If you’re looking for love for Valentine’s Day, beware of romance scams.

The number of those falling for romance scams is on the rise. In 2021, romance scams cost people $547 million. Keep in mind that’s what was reported. An FBI agent tells On Your Side they believe that number is higher. The scammers are everywhere.

“Countries like Nigeria, The Philippines, places like that. But they are also here on U.S. soil,” said Jeanette Milazzo, FBI Assistant Special Agent. She says online Romeos gain your trust and ask personal questions fast.

“Full name, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, things like, that’s a red flag,” she said.

On Your Side asked her what the FBI is doing to catch the crooks.

“We have multiple ways to target these individuals. The best way that we’ve found is for individuals who have been victimized to come forward. These individuals often don’t target one person. They are often able to do this to ten, dozens of people, if not hundreds of people,” said Milazzo.

Scammers will cancel plans to meet in person. Saying there was an emergency or something came up. Crooks will beg for money. They’ll often ask their victims to pay for a plane ticket to visit. Then they’ll give directions on how to send money. Usually, it’s a way that’s impossible to get money back, like transfer apps, gift cards, wire services even cryptocurrency. When the conversation turns to money, just stop talking.

Clinical physiologists say that’s easier said than done.

“I think maybe we don’t think we realize how vulnerable we might be. Especially if we’re lonely and isolated and have other relationships online, we might think it’s the real deal. Online you can say all the right things. You can be charming. You can also research your victim, said Dr. Jennifer Baker, clinical physiologist.

Be wary if they just seem too perfect. It’s a wolf with Cupid’s clothing.

“Your brain can trick you. You can be strongly attracted to someone who is not good for you. It’s good to find out all the information about them that you can,” said Baker.

Use a reverse Google image and see if the person is using a stolen photo. Are they on other social media platforms? Compare names, photos, and info. If it’s a brand new account with only one or two photos -- that’s a red flag.

Never send money to someone you don’t really know. Think twice if they’re sending you money. Money Mules, basically, money laundering is a thing with romance scams.

If you think your loved one or friend might be talking with a scammer, be kind and curious and ask open-ended questions. As the conversation goes on, the goal is for the potential victim to realize they still have more to learn about the person on the other side of the keyboard.

Report a Romance Scam here.

To report a correction or typo, please email digitalnews@ky3.com