In 2021 alone, victims within the FBI San Francisco division’s territory lost more than $64 million to romance scams, compared to just over $35 million in 2020.
The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has issued a warning against the rise in romance scams in the San Francisco Bay Area, with the latest trend involving cryptocurrencies.
Just a few days ahead of Valentine’s day, the FBI San Francisco field office alerted the public about the rise in romance scams based on the complaints filed with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
A romance scam involves creating fake accounts and convincing unwary investors — both men and women — to transfer funds under the pretext of getting romantic. According to the information shared by the FBI:
“Victims within the FBI San Francisco division’s territory lost more than $64 million to romance scams compared to just over $35 million in 2020.”
In 2021 alone, the intelligence and security service logged 742 complaints within the Northern District of California, overshadowing the 720 and 526 complaints lodged back in 2020 and 2019 respectively.
Moreover, the IC3 received more than 23,000 complaints about confidence/romance scams in 2020 — with reported losses of more than $600 million. The FBI warning read:
“The FBI San Francisco has seen a rising trend in which romance scammers are persuading individuals to send money to invest or trade cryptocurrency.”
A typical romance scam starts off with gaining the trust of the victims who are then redirected to fraudulent platforms citing investment opportunities.
While the scammers allow the investors to withdraw some profits from the initial trade as a way to prove credibility, the victims are coerced into investing more money or cryptocurrencies:
“When the victim is ready to withdraw funds again, the scammers create reasons why this cannot happen. The victim is informed additional taxes or fees need to be paid, or the minimum account balance has not been met to allow a withdrawal.”
However, the scammers typically stop responding after the victims refuse to add more funds. The FBI recommends victims of romance scams report the activities and contact their banks.
Some of the tips recommended by the FBI to avoid romance scams include not taking investment advice from purely online interactions, not disclosing financial information, staying away from promises of unrealistic profits and being “cautious of individuals who claim to have exclusive investment opportunities and urge you to act fast.”
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