HONOLULU (KHON) – Beware of potential romance scams; that’s the warning from the FBI ahead of Valentine’s Day.
Data in 2021 compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows over 24,000 victims across the country lost about 1 billion dollars to scammers who prey on those looking for love.
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“We’ve seen, unfortunately, a lot of our victims give their life savings to someone they’ve never even met, for the hope of a relationship, or love, or marriage down the line,” said Steven Merrill, Special-Agent-in-Charge of FBI Honolulu.
Adding that romance scams happen frequently to victims in Hawaii, Merrill said “This is one of the crimes where criminals are using what I call a ‘shotgun approach.'”
Merrill said scammers send out online messages to thousands of people at the same time, waiting for one person to respond.
“They don’t care where you are. They’re not targeting necessarily people in Hawaii. They just want a huge environment, because all they really need is one person to reply and start the relationship. If someone doesn’t reply, they’ll move on to somebody else.”
While romance scams are a tale as old as time, the internet has made it easier to prey on the vulnerable.
“The elderly tend to fall victim more than others because they trust people. That is the most charming thing and the best thing about that generation, but it also makes them not necessarily think twice about the fact that they could be getting scammed.”
If you’re looking for love online, Merill said to make sure you find out more about the person you just met.
“If you’re in a chatroom, ask for a voice call, or a video call in person. I can guarantee you that will change the tenor of the conversation.”
If they ask for money, Merrill said that’s a red flag.
“Don’t send money. Why would you need to send money without having ever met the person?”
And take the relationship slowly.
“That’s what the criminals do. They will pressure our victims, I need money now you need to do it right away. And that really is a red flag and I hope people will understand that or, you know, we all have friends family, take a step back. Ask them their opinion. Does this sound too good to be true? When it sounds too good to be true, it normally is,” said Merrill.
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If you or someone know are victims of a romance call, call the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI.