KANSAS CITY (KSNT) – If that special someone you met online seems too good to be true, they might be after more than your heart.
As we get closer to Valentine’s Day, Homeland Security Investigations in Kansas City warns romance scams aren’t only a matter of national security, but also public safety.
Romance scams can leave victims not only heartbroken, but financially ruined. These scams cost American consumers $750 million annually.
Investigators say romance scams primarily target people over the age of 40 who have excess money and use dating apps or websites. Conversations start off harmless enough, but eventually the scammer will push for cash, credit card information or Bitcoin transfers.
The pandemic saw a rise in romance scams. People were isolated and looking for stronger digital connections. Even though things are getting back to normal, scammers are still at it. They’ve increased year-over-year profits by around $100 million.
HSI Kansas City Acting Special Agent in Charge Taekuk Cho says there are steps you can take to prevent falling victim.
“When it comes to dating or online websites where you’re looking for romance, you really have to be cautious that you know who the person is on the other end,” Cho said. “If you never meet them in real life, chances are that person is not who he or she portrays themselves to be.”
Cho says to look out for warning signs of a romance scam that might not be obvious. Those include the scammer pushing you off the original app or website you met on, bringing up an accident or financial emergency for which they need immediate help or making excuses to not meet in person or over video chat.
If you or someone yo know has been involved with a romance scam, you can report it to HSI via their tip line at 1-866-DHS-2423.