EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) El Paso office wants to warn the public about romance scams ahead of Valentine’s Day.

Jeanette Harper, Special Agent and Public Affairs Specialist for the FBI in El Paso said romance scams are the ones they see people lose the most money on.

In 2021, the FBI said people across the nation lost over a billion dollars in romance scams.

Here in the El Paso and Midland areas, people lost nearly $1.4 million in 2021.

In January 2022, Harper said they already had four reports of online romance scams totaling to $9,000 lost.

Harper said scammers typically tend to be men using stock photos “catfishing,” or pretending to be someone else, on dating apps and sites.

“When they are taking money from you immediately contact your financial bank institution, unfortunately, we see a lot of innocent victims being caught up in money laundering schemes because these individuals want you to push money to you and send it to other bank accounts,” Harper said.

She said to avoid scams, the public should research profiles and photos to ensure they aren’t being used elsewhere, never send money to anyone, take things slow and beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or social media site to communicate directly.

“They’re looking at you to see if you have any vulnerabilities they might be successful and they’re going to progress love really quickly and always a reason why they can’t meet you,” Harper said.

The FBI said if you feel you are a victim of a scam, stop communication immediately, contact the FBI and don’t send any money.

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