Editorial Roundup: Alabama

Cullman Times. November 25, 2023.

Editorial: I’m in the mood for ... getting scammed

Scammers use many tactics to separate unsuspecting victims of their identities and money, reports the IRS Criminal Investigation’s Atlanta Field Office.

How true.

There are few of us who don’t know a victim of identity or online financial theft — and many of us have been victims ourselves.

But one of the most threatening tactics targets those who may already feel alone or isolated — an ever-growing segment of our community. The romance scam, which in 2022 affected approximately 70,000 victims with reported losses of $1.3 billion according to a report by the Federal Trade Commission, thrives especially during the holidays as many of us look for personal connections with others.

In this scam, criminals create fake online profiles, usually on social media applications and dating websites, and attempt to build phony emotional attachments until a potential victim is comfortable sending them money. Many scammers find victims by pulling online public information, which they use to do research. And, many of these scammers are very patient and will wait weeks or months to gain a victim’s trust.

To avoid becoming a victim of romance scams, follow these tips from the IRS CI offices:

• Never send money to anyone you have only communicated with online or by phone.

• Be careful what you post and make public online.

• When starting a new relationship, take it slow, and ask lots of questions.

• Be alert to those who seem too perfect or quickly ask you to leave a dating service or social media site to communicate by other means.

• Beware of those who want to isolate you from friends and family.

• Don’t share inappropriate photos or financial information that could later be used to extort you.

• Be suspicious if the individual promises to meet in person but then never does.

Many of the criminals involved with romance scams are part of an organized crime group, the agency said, and people who suspect they have become victims of romance scams should make a report to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

To report romance scams or other types of online crimes, victims can make a report at https://www.ic3.gov/. The website contains information including Frequently Asked Questions, consumer and industry alerts, and a graph on complaints and losses over the last five years.