FBI warns of online romance scams ahead of Valentine’s Day
SAN FRANCISCO — The FBI issued a strong warning for daters ahead of Valentine’s Day: online romance scammers are looking for their next victim, and they’re not just trying to take your money.
Just last week, Berkeley police arrested four people who were accused of using a dating app to meet up with a UC Berkeley student and rob him at gunpoint in his apartment.
In 2022, complaints filed with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center showed that close to 450 victims in the Bay Area lost more than $45 million to romance scams.
“She said she wanted to text, so we started texting,” said a romance scam victim. “So, I went to my bank account, and it said I was $5,780 dollars in debt.”
The highest victim age group is 60 years and older.
“The scammer tries to build rapport with a victim to develop a relationship, so a scammer in a matter of weeks or a matter of months will go from a complete stranger to a trusted insider, a trusted confidant, so much so that the victims will send the scammers fairly large sums of money, personal property and even personal, financial information,” said Robert Tripp, FBI Special Agent in Charge San Francisco Field Office.
Authorities said one major red flag to watch for is that scammers will create a sense of urgency, saying they need money quickly and only the victim can help.
Also, the scammer will show the victim without solicitation a copy of a driver’s license or passport to prove the scammer is legit.
The FBI advises if you are the victim of a romance scam, you should definitely report it. They also said you should contact your bank immediately.
“I create a complete strategy for my clients,” said Julia Malakiman, a Silicon Valley dating coach. “You know, from going from super confused to dating to going on awesome dates and finding really, the love of their life.”
Malakiman teaches her clients how to master the art of dating. Her customers are looking for love, but also looking to not get scammed.
“Well, one of my clients before he started working with me, he had a date set up with a woman who did not look like her pictures at all,” said Malakiman. “She did not have a job even though she said she did. She did not have a car although she said she did. My client was completely dumbfounded when he went to the date you know, obviously questioning her intentions and made for a very bad
Malakiman wants her clients to fall in love while also staying safe.
She tells her clients to always call or better yet, video call before their first date, to always meet in public, to share their location with a friend or family member, and of course, to never give personal and financial information to anyone.
“I think a lot of women and men are quite naïve,” said Malakiman. “It comes again from, ‘Oh my gosh, someone wants to go on a date with me! Let me go out with whoever.’ And they’re not filtering out what are the potential risks here.”
Meanwhile, if you are looking to find the right person in person, Malakiman is hosting a Singles Round Table on Valentine’s Day for people to come and talk about their dating experiences and share their Tinder horror stories. The event is from 7 p.m to 9 p.m. at 1631 North 1st Street in San Jose.