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HSI launches new awareness campaign for digital romance scams on Valentine’s Day

Fraud, Bribery & CorruptionHSI launches new awareness campaign for digital romance scams on Valentine’s Day

WASHINGTON – As part of ongoing efforts to combat cyber crimes and online financial fraud, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) launched an awareness campaign yesterday – Valentine’s Day – to educate the public on dangers associated with online romance scams and how individuals can protect themselves and loved ones.

“Many romance scams originate in west Africa – often targeting recently widowed or divorced seniors. Criminal organizations use legitimate dating apps to defraud people,” said Acting Executive Assistant Director of HSI Steve K. Francis. “These financial crime scams have a devastating effect on those targeted; we continue to see an increase in reported crimes, but HSI remains committed to investigating and bringing criminals to justice who prey on the vulnerable.”

Here are some tips to avoid losing money to a romance scam:

Protect yourself and older loved ones by raising awareness. Although this can be an uncomfortable topic, make sure you, your family and your friends are familiar with romance scams. The more you know about these scams, the better prepared you are to prevent being a victim.
Check in on older loved ones. Scammers are seeking to target those living alone or grieving the loss of a spouse as they are more vulnerable.
Limit what you share online. Scammers can use details shared on social media and dating sites to better understand and target you.
Do your research. Research the individual’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the image, name, or other details have been used elsewhere.
Go slowly and ask a lot of questions. Do not let the individual rush you to leave a dating service or social media site to communicate directly.
Listen to your gut. If the individual seems too good to be true, talk to someone you trust.
Do not overshare personal information. Requests for inappropriate photos or financial information could later be used to extort you.
Be suspicious if you have not met in person. If the individual promises to meet in person, but consistently comes up with an excuse for cancelling, be suspicious.
Do not send money. Never send money to anyone you have only communicated with online or by phone.

Last year, HSI special agents played a critical role in several high-profile investigations to combat these crimes, including an HSI Austin investigation that resulted in the 10-year sentencing of Texas man for his role in fraud scheme; an HSI Baton Rouge investigation that led to a 33-month sentence for a local man for defrauding an elderly veteran; and an HSI New Orleans investigation that culminated in two defendants pleading guilty to the fraudulent transfer of hundreds of thousands of dollars within the United States and to locations abroad, including Canada and Nigeria.

Members of the public can report crime or suspicious activity by calling the tip line at 866-347-2423 or filling out the online tip form.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of DHS, responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity.

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