The FBI Denver Division says more than 200 people in Colorado and Wyoming have been targeted in romance scams totaling more than $32 million in reported losses.
These scams, according to the FBI, took place between October and January. Roughly 60% of the targeted victims were over the age of 60, they said.
The figures come amid a general rise in multi-million-dollar romance scams. The Internet Crime Complaint Center’s Annual Report for 2020 said there were nearly 24,000 victims that year – roughly 23% higher than the previous year.
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The FBI estimates that these types of crimes amount to more than $605 million in annual losses and account for some of the highest amounts of financial losses compared to other Internet-related criminal activity.
Scammers who target unsuspecting victims will often claim to work in remote parts of the world to avoid meeting in person. They’ll use dating websites or social media networks to target victims, gain their trust, and ask for money under false pretenses – usually an unforeseen medical expense or family emergency.
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Victims are often people looking for relationships online. The most common victims, according to the FBI, are women over 40, the elderly, widowed, divorced, or disabled. Scammers will usually take advantage of the vulnerabilities of these groups to build trust and intimacy to facilitate their fraud.
Common red flags include a potential scammer pressing the victim to leave the dating app and turn to messaging or email. The suspected scammer will often profess love quickly, and try to isolate the individual from their friends or family.
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Anyone who suspects they may have been the victim of an online scam is encouraged to file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov.