In 2022, nearly 300 victims in Western PA and West Virginia reported losing $7.1 million in romance scams.

It’s likely that many more losses went unreported. While Valentine’s Day and the days leading up to it can be exciting, it can also lead to heartbreak, embarrassment, and financial loss.

Well-rehearsed criminals search dating sites, apps, chat rooms, and other social media networking sites attempting to build “relationships” for the sole purpose of getting your money or your personally identifiable information.

Romance scammers often create fake profiles on dating sites and apps or contact their targets through popular social media sites.

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center or IC3, romance scams, also called confidence fraud, affected approximately 177 victims in Western PA in 2022 with losses totaling more than $3.7 million.

In West Virginia, 103 victims lost roughly $3.4 million in 2022. Nationwide, roughly 19,000 0 victims reported a loss of more than $700 million last year.

If you develop a romantic relationship with someone you meet online, please consider the following:

· Only use reputable, nationally-recognized dating websites; however, be aware that scammers may be using them too.

· Research photos and profiles in other online search tools and ask questions.

· Never provide your financial information, loan money, nor allow your bank accounts to be used for transfers of funds.

· Do not allow attempts to isolate you from family and friends.

· Do not blindly believe the stories of severe life circumstances, tragedies, family deaths, injuries, or other hardships geared at keeping your interest and concern.

· If you are planning to meet someone in person you have met online, meet in a public place and let someone know where you will be and what time you should return home.

· If you are traveling to a foreign country to meet someone check the State Department’s Travel Advisories beforehand , provide your itinerary to family and friends, and do not travel alone if possible.

Victims may be hesitant to report being taken advantage of due to embarrassment, shame, or humiliation. It’s important to remember, romance scams can happen to anyone at any time.