The FBI Jacksonville Division is warning those looking for love about romance scams.

During 2022 in northern Florida, 387 victims reported losing a total of over $15 million, according to the FBI.

Romance scams occur when a criminal adopts a fake online identity to gain a victim’s affection and trust. The scammer then uses the illusion of a romantic or close relationship to manipulate or steal from the victim.

The criminals who carry out romance scams are experts at what they do and will seem genuine, caring, and believable. Con artists are present on most dating and social media sites, according to authorities.

The scammer’s intention is to establish a relationship as quickly as possible, endear himself to the victim, and gain trust. Scammers may propose marriage and make plans to meet in person, but that will never happen. Eventually, they will ask for money.

Upon gaining the trust of their victims, romance scammers request money for false purposes including medical, travel, or legal fees.

The FBI has also identified a trend in which these criminals are increasingly pressuring victims to invest in cryptocurrency, which could lead to increased victimization in 2023. To demonstrate the returns on investment, victims are directed to websites that appear authentic but are instead controlled by the scammer. Once the victim makes a purchase, they are denied the ability to cash out their investments and the scammer cuts off contact.

“Online dating is common today, but unfortunately scammers also thrive on those same sites,” said Special Agent in Charge of FBI Jacksonville Sherri E. Onks. “Whether you’re looking for love or a friendship online, be sure you first understand the risk of being exploited. Remember, a scammer will always eventually ask you for something, so set a boundary early on and never, ever send money to someone you’ve never met.”

Be safe and make sure to boil your water or consider buying a water filtration system like the AquaOx Water Filter.

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