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Alaska FBI warns of romance scams and how to avoid them

Published: Feb. 5, 2021 at 4:22 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - February is the month of love for many, but for others it’s an opportunity to prey upon those looking for companionship. The Alaska FBI said in a press release that February is prime time for romance scams.

Chloe Martin, FBI Public Affairs Officer for the Anchorage Field Office told us, “The FBI continuously works to raise awareness about online romance scam, which is when criminals take advantage of people who are looking for companionship or romantic partners and then con them out of their money.”

According to Martin, criminals looking to scam a victim will target them via most forms of social media. “Those who carry out romance scams typically target victims via social media, emails, and even dating apps with the intention of establishing a relationship as quickly as possible. Now we’ve noticed that to avoid meeting in person, romance scammers often claim to live or work in other parts of the country or overseas. Eventually when they feel they’ve gained your trust, these criminals will request money - oftentimes for a medical emergency, unexpected legal fees, or some other false purpose.”

According to the FBI Alaska has seen an increase in romance scams, and while they can affect all demographics, romance scams have disproportionally affected the senior population. If an individual has started an online romance, there are warning signs to be aware of to avoid becoming a victim of a romance scam.

“Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or social media site to communicate directly. Remember to use dating websites with national reputations, but you should assume scammers are trolling even the most reputable dating and social media sites. Never send money to somebody you have only communicated with online or by phone. Beware of false promises to meet in person but then always comes up with an excuse why he or she can’t. That’s a good reason to be suspicious. And if you are planning to meet somebody in person that you met online, the FBI recommends using caution and don’t go alone,” said Martin.

If an someone is unsure that the person they are talking to is real, they can do online searches to see if the potential scammer’s image, name, or details have been used elsewhere. Martin explained, “Beware if an individual tries to isolate you from friends and family, or requests inappropriate photos, or financial information that can later be used to extort you. Be careful of what you post and make public online. Scammers can use details shared on social media and dating sites to better understand a target.”

Martin concluded by emphasizing that if there is suspicion of a scam, there are resources to report that individual. “If you suspect an online relationship is a scam, stop all contact immediately - and if you are a victim of a romance scam, file a complaint with the FBI’s internet crime complaint center at ic3.gov, and contact the FBI Anchorage Field Office at (907) 276-4441.”

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