The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) warned today that scammers are defrauding victims via online romance scams, persuading individuals to send money to allegedly invest or trade cryptocurrency.

From January 1, 2021, to July 31, 2021, the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received over 1,800 complaints, related to online romance scams, resulting in losses of approximately $133,400,000.

The scammer’s initial contact is typically made via dating apps and other social media sites. The scammer gains the confidence and trust of the victim—through establishing an online relationship—and then claims to have knowledge of cryptocurrency investment or trading opportunities that will result in substantial profits.

The scammer directs the victim to a fraudulent website or application for an investment opportunity. After the victim has invested an initial amount on the platform and sees an alleged profit, the scammers allow the victim to withdraw a small amount of money, further gaining the victim’s trust.

After the successful withdrawal, the scammer instructs the victim to invest larger amounts of money and often expresses the need to “act fast.” 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. This entices the victim to provide additional funds. Sometimes, a “customer service group” gets involved, which is also part of the scam. Victims are not able to withdraw any money, and the scammers most often stop communicating with the victim after they cease to send additional funds.

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TIPS TO PROTECT YOURSELF:

  • Never send money, trade, or invest per the advice of someone you have solely met online.
  • Do not disclose your current financial status to unknown and untrusted individuals.
  • Do not provide your banking information, Social Security Number, copies of your identification or passport, or any other sensitive information to anyone online or to a site you do not know is legitimate.
  • If an online investment or trading site is promoting unbelievable profits, it is most likely that—unbelievable.
  • Be cautious of individuals who claim to have exclusive investment opportunities and urge you to act fast.

To report a scam to the FBI IC3, please visit www.ic3.gov.