OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — With Valentine's Day just around the corner, agencies are warning people not to be too smitten with strangers. According to the FBI, internet scammers take advantage of the holiday and commit romance scams.
"Really what we term a romance scam is anybody really a criminal actor who creates a fake account on a dating website dating app, posing as either a male or a female for the purpose of getting a victim to send them money," Special Agent Jeremy Whitmer said.
Whitmer said scammers will establish a short or long-term relationship and ask victims to send money.
These types of scams don't just happen around Valentine's Day, but people can fall victim around the holiday because of the love on everyone's mind.
Almost 300 people in Iowa and Nebraska fell victim last year alone, which resulted in $5,400,000 being lost.
Anybody can fall victim but Whitmer says but some may be more susceptible than others.
"We see people who are dating, thinking about long term relationships, especially second relationships. People who have been divorced or maybe widowed, people who have recently gotten out of a long term relationship and are looking for another long term relationship online is generally who we see being the most victimized in these scams," Whitmer said.
The Better Business Bureau suggests researching people you've met online with online features like Google reverse image search to better protect yourself. The Bureau also suggests to ask specific questions about information in one's dating profile.
Whitmer says to also be aware of how someone you met online communicates.
"The criminal actors we see in these kinds of scams will communicate almost exclusively with email and text message so they won’t do voice calls and they will never do video calls," Whitmer said.
If you believe you've fallen victim to a romance scam you can report it at https://ic3.gov/