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FBI warns of romance scams ahead of Valentine’s Day

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - The FBI is urging people to be mindful of scammers who pose as people looking for a long-term relationship so they can prey on victims.

As the scammers get closer to their would-be victims, they begin trying to persuade them to send money or buy them gifts.

The Columbia field office of the FBI sent out the warning Thursday ahead of Valentine’s Day, saying that in 2020, complaints filed with the agency’s Internet Crime Complaint Center showed victims lost more than $281 million to romance scams.

South Carolinians reported losses of more than $4.4 million that year.

The schemes affect victims from all demographics, but elderly women are often the most targeted, FBI spokesman Kevin Wheeler said.

The FBI offered the following warning signs to help identify a possible romance scam:

-Immediate attempts to communicate by email or messaging services outside of a dating site

-Claims to be from the U.S. but is currently living or traveling abroad

-Claims that being introduced was “destiny” or “fate”

-Reports a sudden personal crisis and pressures you to provide financial help

-Disappears suddenly from a site, but reappears under a different name

-Asks for money, goods, or other types of financial assistance without having met in person

The best defense against romance scams is education and awareness:

-Never send money to someone you meet online, especially by wire transfer.

-Never give someone your banking or credit card information without verifying a recipient’s identity.

-Never share your Social Security Number or other personally identifiable information with someone who does not need to know the information

-Be careful what you post and make public online. Scammers can use details shared on social media and dating sites to better understand and target you.

-Research the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the image, name, or details have been used elsewhere.

-Go slowly and ask the other person lots of questions.

If you believe you are the victim of such a scam, report the activity to the FBI at their complaint center.

You should also contact your bank if you discover fraudulent or suspicious transactions and also report the activity to the website or application where the contact first began.

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Speaking of Valentine's, did you catch this podcast of 'The Kelly Golden Show' about Valentine's Day and SC's Medical Marijuana Bill?

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