Amid the roses, romantic dinners and candy, danger lurks on Valentine's Day and other days, with romance scams on the rise across the Bay Area, FBI officials said Friday.
Victims in the FBI's San Francisco division lost more than $64 million to romance scams in 2021, compared with $35 million in 2020, according to the agency.
The FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center received 742 complaints within the Northern District of California last year compared to 720 in 2020 and 526 in 2019, officials said.
The Bay Area county with the highest victim reporting and dollar amount loss was Santa Clara County, followed by San Francisco County and Alameda County.
FBI officials said there is a rising trend in which romance scammers persuade individuals to send money to invest or trade cryptocurrency. After gaining the confidence and trust of the victim, the scammer directs the victim to a fraudulent website or application for an investment opportunity. After the victim has invested an initial amount on the platform and sees an alleged profit, the scammers allow the victim to withdraw a small amount of money. Eventually, the scammer instructs the victim to invest a more considerable amount.
The agency shared tips for the public to protect against romantic scams:
- Never send money, trade or invest per the advice of someone you have solely met online.
- Do not disclose your current financial status to unknown and untrusted individuals.
- Do not provide your banking information, social security number, copies of your identification or passport, or any other sensitive information to anyone online or to a site you do not know is legitimate.
The Santa Clara Police Department also chimed in with its own tips for people meeting someone in person for the first time after corresponding with them online:
- Tell a friend where you're going and share a screenshot of your date's profile
- Arrive in your own vehicle
- Meet in a public place
- Watch you're alcohol consumption
- Trust your instincts
- Not a match? End the date