OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — With so many more people staying home, scammers are taking note. The FBI office in Omaha wants to remind people of romance scams, as too many people are falling victim.
“We consider it a very big problem. Innocent members of our community are falling victim to this on a daily basis,” said Kristi Johnson of the Omaha FBI Branch. “Just in 2019, we had scams in the upwards of $18 million dollar losses just in the State of Nebraska, some of which would be romance scam related.”
The FTC reported back in February, Americans were scammed out of $201 million just in romance scams in 2019.
“They’re falling victim to these criminal actors who are taking advantage of loneliness and people who have some extra money laying around,” said Johnson.
“You have someone online posing to be someone else, and usually they’re trying to exploit you in some way mostly for financial gain, sometimes for your information,” said Matt Hale, Cyber Security Professor at UNO. A romance scam is when someone claiming to be who they are, not contacts another person and establishes a relationship with them. That relationship then leads to them asking for money.
“The common tactics you might see are like “hey I have this situation and I need you to give me some money in intermediate time so that I can pay for something, I need gas money, I need money to buy food this month”,” said Hale.
The scammers might start small with their money requests then make higher demands. So how can you protect yourself? You can start by keeping your money in your account.
“If you never met the person, do not send them any money,” said Johnson.
You can also verify if they are a real person by using services like video chat. If you get any money requests, be suspicious, because that suspicion can save you down the road.
“Just be suspicious and protect your money,” said Johnson.
If you have any questions about romance scams or would like to report one, visit the website ic3.gov