The FBI states that romance scams are a type of online fraud where criminals use fake identities and romantic language to manipulate people into sending them money or personal information. These scams are on the rise, with more and more people falling victim to them every year. Fortunately, there are ways to spot a romance scam before it’s too late. Here are some red flags to watch out for:

• Too good to be true:

If someone you meet online seems too perfect – too handsome, too successful, too charming – it’s a good sign that they might not be who they say they are. Scammers often use photos of attractive people and create fake profiles to lure in victims. Once the scammer has the interest or trust of their victim, they quickly will move on quickly to the next part of their plan.

• Moving too fast:

Scammers often try to rush the relationship along, saying things like “I love you” very early on. They might also try to move the conversation off of the dating site or app and onto email or text message. Watch out for this tendency to speed things along and take conversations into spaces with less oversight. Often this is the sign that a scammer is moving towards requesting something next.

• Asking for money:

This is the ultimate red flag. If someone you’ve just met online asks you for money, it’s almost certainly a scam. They might come up with a sob story about a sick relative or a business deal gone wrong, but don’t fall for it. Asking for money can also come in the form of gift cards, payments to bills, or other ways the scammer causes financial loss.

• Inconsistencies in their story:

If the person you’re talking to gives you different information at different times, it’s a good sign that they’re lying. Ask them questions about their life and see if their answers change. Pay attention to the small details in stories as the major points may stay consistent and be scripted.

• Refusal to video chat:

Scammers often don’t want to video chat or meet in person. Requesting to meet in person can be dangerous for other reasons. Always pick a public place with many witnesses and exits in case the meetup does not go as planned. If you have been speaking online with someone and they do not want to chat on video or meet in person, this is a major red flag.

Remember, the best way to protect yourself from romance scams is to be vigilant. The FBI, FTC, USAA, and other resources have great information on staying safe from various scams. Everyday businesses and individuals fall victim to scams of all types. Stay safe this valentine’s day and keep aware of those sudden requests for love.

If you do think you’ve fallen for a romance scam, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself:

1. Stop communicating with the scammer immediately. Continued communication only further puts your information and finances at risk. You do not owe the scammers an explanation as to why you are ceasing communication, so resist the urge to explain or answer their requests for information. Any tipoff that the scammers are discovered can also lower the likelihood of a successful investigation.

2. Report the scam to the dating site or app you’re using, as well as to the authorities. The sooner the scam is reported to the dating site, and authorities, the better chances of stopping them before they target another victim. Time is of the essence in any criminal investigation. Whenever there is a delay in reporting of a scam, it only helps the scammers.

3. Get in touch with your bank or financial institution to see if they can help you recover any money that was lost. The recovery of lost funds is not always possible. Your bank will do whatever they can to assist in these matters. Time is of the essence in these matters, so contact your bank as soon as you can to report possible fraud.