Murrieta’s Romance Scam: The FBI’s Valentine’s Day Tips

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Murrieta’s Romance Scam: The FBI’s Valentine’s Day Tips


MURIETA, Calif. — It’s February and love may be in the air, but the FBI is warning Murrieta residents to be on the lookout for romance scams that could cost California residents millions of dollars in 2020.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, plans to promise love and affection are heating up again, according to federal agencies.

People of all ages are victims, but older women are most often targeted, the FBI said.

Find out what’s going on in Murrieta with Patch’s free live updates.

“Trust scams” use romantic relationships to defraud unsuspecting money, personal and even financial information.

Americans lost more than $281 million to romance scams in 2020, according to the FBI. In California, more than 3,000 victims reported being scammed by romance scams, losing more than $120 million.

Find out what’s going on in Murrieta with Patch’s free live updates.

Romance scams evolve over time, according to the Riverside County chapter of the AARP. Once someone gains trust, the shy may share a “crying story” and start asking the target for money, gift cards, or financial information.

“Gift cards are a favorite of scammers because they’re nearly impossible to trace,” said an AARP spokesperson. “Once you give someone a gift card, they’re likely to keep asking for more.”

Romance scams exploit the loneliness of older Americans, according to AARP, and their research shows that romance scams target a common theme — they’ve recently experienced a negative event, whether it’s the loss of a spouse or job, or Economic setbacks.

Scammers get this information by scanning obituaries, online and offline documents, and even rummaging through people’s trash cans.

Suspicion is healthy until an online relationship is established, the FBI said. Some red flags:

  • After initial contact on a legitimate dating site, the person attempts to communicate via email or messaging services.
  • The person claims to be from the United States, but lives or is traveling abroad.
  • The person claimed that the relationship was “fate” or “fate”.
  • This person reports a personal crisis and exerts pressure for financial help.
  • The person suddenly disappeared and reappeared under a different name.
  • The person asks for goods or money before the in-person meeting.

Some tips to protect yourself:

  • Never send or wire money to someone you know online.
  • Never share bank or credit card information with anyone you haven’t verified your identity with.
  • Never share your Social Security number or other personally identifiable information with anyone who does not need the information for a legitimate reason.
  • Be mindful of what you post on social media posts and your general online presence. Scammers can use details shared on social media and dating sites to get to know you better and target you.
  • Use an online search to research the person’s photo and profile to see if the image, name or details have been used elsewhere.
  • Take your time and ask each other a lot of questions.

Americans are increasingly comfortable with online platforms, opening up new avenues for chisels, experts say.

“More Americans generally prefer platonic and romantic relationships online, and these scams are following them, whether it’s apps or social media sending them friend requests or instant messages on Facebook saying ‘I Fall in love with you’ and ask for money,” Casey Stokes, director of the AARP Fraud Prevention Program, told Patch in 2019, recounting the story of scams targeting older Americans.

RELATED: Scammers are terrorizing and extorting millions from your aging parents

To make matters worse, many people—especially older ones—are reluctant to admit they’ve been cheated out of fear of being seen as naive or incompetent.

“It’s very frustrating and shameful for someone who is educated and thinks they’re savvy to admit that they’re in love with something,” Stokes said. Blame victims of scams in a way that doesn’t blame victims of other crimes. We need to change the narrative – ‘This happened to me and I have the right to tell my story so others don’t feel the same embarrassment.'”

Anyone who believes they have been the victim of a romance scam should report the activity to the Internet Crime Complaint Center. Additionally, the FBI says people who get scammed should first call their banks, credit unions and credit card companies. They should also report it to the website or app that started the contact.

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Murrieta’s Romance Scam: The FBI’s Valentine’s Day Tips

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