The FBI has a warning this Valentine's Day: Criminals are preying on vulnerable, single women to get money on online dating websites.
"These criminals are really good. They know how to play to your emotions, and they have nothing to lose,” said FBI San Diego Spokesperson Emily Yeh.
Yeh says the suspects will establish a relationship with their victims. It can span over a few weeks or even over a few months. They’ll send flowers and gifts as a way to help their victim feel comfortable or that there is truly a love connection. But at some point, they’ll ask for financial assistance of some kind.
One woman, who doesn’t want to be identified, shared emails from a man who tried to scam her. They met on a dating site and instantly she thought there was a connection. The man immediately professed his love and in one email said: You are my life, my love, my soul mate, my heart, and my reason for breathing. I love you, with everything I am.
The woman says she became suspicious when the conversations turned from love to money. Federal authorities say that is a big red flag.
"It can go from the simple to elaborate. It could simply be asking, hey, my wallet was stolen, can you provide some money, I need to pay my hotel bills, or I have an emergency medical bill that came up,” Yeh explained.
That’s exactly what happened in this case. The man started sending emails, saying he had a bad day and needed more than $6,000 for work equipment. Thankfully, the woman didn’t fall for it, but the FBI says far too often, someone does.
"You want to see the good in people. You're online looking for companionship, You're on a reputable dating site, and you’re hoping they are looking for the same," Yeh said.
Here are some warning signs: You want to be cautious about anyone who professes their love instantly, sends a photo that looks like a glamour shot and claims to be from the U.S. but working overseas.
Federal authorities say the targets are usually women over 40 and those who are divorced or widowed. These cases are considered fraud, and federal charges can be filed.