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IRS Criminal Investigation’s Atlanta Field Office warns of romance scams

ATLANTA – Scammers use many tactics to separate unsuspecting victims of their identities and money. One of the tactics is 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.

“Investigating criminals defrauding innocent victims through romance scams is just one of the various crimes our special agents investigate,” said Demetrius Hardeman, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Atlanta Field Office. “These scams leave many victims financially devastated and emotionally manipulated.”

The 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 of scammers find victims by pulling online public information, which they use to do research.

“It is important that people are careful of people they meet through social media sites,” Hardeman said. “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, people should follow these tips:

  • 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,” Hardeman said. “People who suspect they have become victims of romance scams can 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.

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