FBI NEWS RELEASE
San Diego Field Office
Looking for Love? Beware of Online Dating Scams
Millions of Americans visit online dating websites every year, hoping to find a companion or even a soul mate. But today, on Valentine’s Day, we want to warn you that criminals use these sites, too, looking to turn the lonely and vulnerable into fast money through a variety of scams.
These criminals—who also troll social media sites and chat rooms in search of romantic victims—usually claim to be Americans traveling or working abroad. In reality, they often live overseas. Their most common targets are women over 40, who are divorced, widowed, and/or disabled, but every age group and demographic is at risk.
Here’s how the scam usually works. You’re contacted online by someone who appears interested in you. He or she may have a profile you can read or a picture that is e-mailed to you. For weeks, even months, you may chat back and forth with one another, forming a connection. You may even be sent flowers or other gifts. But ultimately, it’s going to happen—your new-found “friend” is going to ask you for money.
So you send money…but rest assured the requests won’t stop there. There will be more hardships that only you can help alleviate with your financial gifts. He may also send you checks to cash since he’s out of the country and can’t cash them himself, or he may ask you to forward him a package.
So what really happened? You were targeted by criminals, probably based on personal information you uploaded on dating or social media sites. The pictures you were sent were most likely phony lifted from other websites. The profiles were fake as well, carefully crafted to match your interests.
In addition to losing your money to someone who had no intention of ever visiting you, you may also have unknowingly taken part in a money laundering scheme by cashing phony checks and sending the money overseas and by shipping stolen merchandise (the forwarded package).
In another recently reported dating extortion scam, victims usually met someone on an online dating site and then were asked to move the conversation to a particular social networking site, where the talk often turned intimate. Victims were later sent a link to a website where those conversations were posted, along with photos, their phone numbers, and claims that they were “cheaters.” In order to have that information removed, victims were told they could make a $99 payment—but there is no indication that the other side of the bargain was upheld.
While the FBI and other federal partners work some of these cases—in particular those with a large number of victims or large dollar losses and/or those involving organized criminal groups—many are investigated by local and state authorities.
We strongly recommend, however, that if you think you’ve been victimized by a dating scam or any other online scam, file a complaint with our Internet Crime Complaint Center (ic3.gov).
Before forwarding the complaints to the appropriate agencies, IC3 collates and analyzes the data—looking for common threads that could link complaints together and help identify the culprits. This helps keep everyone safe.
Here are some tips on how to avoid becoming a victim of an online dating scam.
Recognizing an Online Dating Scam Artist
Your online “date” may only be interested in your money if he or she:
– Presses you to leave the dating website you met through and to communicate using personal e-mail or instant messaging;
– Professes instant feelings of love;
– Sends you a photograph of himself or herself that looks like something from a glamour magazine;
– Claims to be from the U.S. and is traveling or working overseas;
– Makes plans to visit you but is then unable to do so because of a tragic event; or
– Asks for money for a variety of reasons (travel, medical emergencies, hotel bills, hospitals bills for child or other relative, visas or other official documents, losses from a financial setback or crime victimization).
One way to steer clear of these criminals all together is to stick to online dating websites with nationally known reputations.
While legal definitions of stalking can differ depending on local, state, and federal laws, the National Center for Victims of Crime generally defines stalking as a “course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.”
The National Center for Victims of Crime is the nation’s top organization for information related to crime victims and those affiliated with them, such as advocacy groups and human services organizations. Located in Washington, DC, The National Center for Victims of Crime launched the National Stalking Awareness Month (NSAM) campaign in 2004. NSAM was developed out of the work done by the Stalking Resource Center, a program of the National Center for Victims of Crime, funded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice.
This annual observance is an excellent way for the public, as well as law enforcement professionals and advocacy groups to learn more about stalking and ways to develop responses and solutions to this oftentimes faceless crime. The Stalking Resource Center of the National Center for Victims of Crime has developed a comprehensive website with educational materials, statistics, and resources.
Recent statistics have shown that 6.6 million people are stalked in one year in the United States. The crime of stalking perpetuates fear, anxiety, and social dysfunction in its victims, and can escalate into violence, sometimes fatal, without awareness and the involvement of law enforcement.
The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) is also dedicated to the personal safety of all citizens, and encourages the public to view its resources on a variety of safety-oriented topics. Please visit the below links to learn more about NCPC’s initiatives.
- If people are vigilant and take common-sense precautions, crime can be prevented. Take steps to avoid becoming a victim by reading NCPC’s resources on Violent Crime and Personal Safety.
- NCPC also created a Rapid Response flyer on sexual assault that gives tips if someone is being followed. Click here to learn more.
In the past five years, tips to San Diego County Crime Stoppers have helped to solve 500 crimes in San Diego County including;
- 25 murders
- 23 financial crimes including fraud, identity theft and counterfeiting.
- 37 robbery arrests solving 54 bank robberies and robberies of retailers
- 92 fugitives with histories of rape, child molestation, robbery, and human trafficking
- 103 narcotics cases
- 170 crimes at school campuses getting ecstasy, meth, cocaine, prescription drugs, 6 guns, and 34 knives out of local middle and high schools.
You can make a $$ donation to fund the work that we do. We are a non-profit, volunteer strong organization. Get involved and protect your community.
FBI Launches New Wanted Bank Robbers Website
Nationwide bank robber website – bankrobbers.fbi.gov
Bank robbers last year walked away from federally insured banks, credit unions, savings and loan associations, and armored trucks with more than $38 million in cash, according to the last full year of FBI bank crime statistics. In one in five cases, the money was recovered. In the unsolved cases, surveillance images of suspects were often posted online—on FBI wanted posters and elsewhere—to enlist the public’s help.
To further that effort, the FBI has launched a new Wanted Bank Robbers website at bankrobbers.fbi.gov, the first national system of its kind.
The new site features a gallery of unknown suspects and a map function that plots robbery locations. Users can search by name, location, or other factors. Search results deliver a Wanted by the FBI poster that contains more images, a suspect’s full description, and a brief narrative of the crime.
“This website is an operational tool that will help law enforcement identify and prosecute bank robbers more quickly with the public’s help,” says Jason Di Joseph, who runs the FBI’s bank robbery program at FBI Headquarters. “The idea is to make it easier for the public to recognize and turn in potential suspects and to draw connections between robberies in different cities and states.”
The FBI has had a primary role in bank robbery investigations since the 1930s, when John Dillinger and his gang were robbing banks and capturing the public’s imagination. In 1934, it became a federal crime to rob any national bank or state member bank of the Federal Reserve System. The law soon expanded to include bank burglary, larceny, and similar crimes, with jurisdiction delegated to the FBI. Today, the Bureau works with local law enforcement in bank robbery investigations, but the focus is mostly on violent or serial cases.
“Bank robbery sounds like an old-fashioned crime, but it is a dangerous and often violent criminal act that still results in the loss of lives and takes a significant toll on local communities,” says DiJoseph.
Users of the new website can filter searches of serial and non-serial bank robbers. The bank crime statistics bear out the Bureau’s emphasis on violent cases. While demand notes are bank robbers’ most frequently used tools (2,958 times in 2011), they are followed by firearms (1,242 times) and the mere threat of weapons (2,331 times) or explosive devices (154 times). Even in cases where weapons have not been used, DiJoseph said, the risk of violence increases each time a serial bank robber strikes.
Of the 5,086 bank robberies, burglaries, and larcenies last year, 201 included acts of violence; 70 involved the discharge of firearms. Thirteen people were killed during bank robberies last year, though it was usually the perpetrator (10 incidents).
The new Wanted Bank Robbers website will include the most pressing bank robbery cases from the FBI’s 56 field offices. In the coming weeks and months, new features and more suspects will be added, creating a fuller picture of the nation’s most-wanted bank robbers.