LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – With Valentine’s Day on Friday, the local FBI Office is warning Arkansans about falling for potential romance scams. These scams generally involve a con-artist using a person’s desire for companionship to trick them into giving them money and sometimes worse. In 2018, there were 18,000 romance scam complaints made to the FBI’s Internet Crimes Complaint Center, totaling more than $490 million in losses, according to FBI Supervisory Special Agent Ryan Kennedy.
“Be cautious on online dating profiles, especially with the amount of information that we’re giving because that’s how people get targeted,” Kennedy said. “The more information you have out there, the easier you are to target and the easier it is for someone to take advantage of you.”
Kennedy listed the following as red flags:
- Being in communication for a long term, but never meeting the person face-to-face.
- The person only has Glamour Shots and not regular pictures.
- The person asks you to send them money or do something that may not seem illegal, but actually is illegal, like being what is called a money mule. A money mule is fraud money from someone else that they ask you to send to a third person. They may also try to get you to ship illegal packages.
“What is really, truly devastating about these kinds of fraud, especially for these people that are looking for companionship, is that the money mule and the re-shipper are crimes in and of themselves,” Kennedy said.
The FBI said if you do unintentionally become a money mule, agents will warn you first before the FBI thinks about prosecuting you.
It is important to report crimes like this one to the FBI, so that it can better understand the threats happening over the web. For more information on how to protect yourself and on how to report a crime, click here.