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FBI warns of online romance scams ahead of Valentine's Day

Love is in the air this Valentine's Day, and scammers are looking to prey on anyone looking for love online.

Arizonans lost approximately $25 million to online scams through dating apps, and FBI Supervisory Special Agent Paul Sparke says $18 million of that was from older people.

Sparke says the scammers usually have similar tactics:

"Their goal is to make a connection with that individual so that they can get some sort of financial benefit from it," he said.

From there, the scammer will often encourage the victim to move the conversation from the dating app or website to an encrypted messaging service, like WhatsApp or Signal. This way, the dating site can no longer track the conversation if the scammer gets reported.

By exploiting the perceived "connection" with the victim, the scammer will then request large sums of money, gifts or funds for emotionally charged needs like emergency surgery.

Sparke says that people who believe they've been a victim of a scam should report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center ( ic3.gov) as soon as possible to maximize the chance of getting any stolen money back.

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Nate Engle was an intern at KJZZ in 2024.