SAN ANTONIO — With Valentine's Day less than a week away the FBI is putting out a warning for anyone looking for love.
A romance scam happens when a person, or criminal creates a fake online identity to earn the victim's affection and trust. And in the middle of a pandemic, it makes it that much easier.
"People go online looking for whether love or even a friendship and are eager to make connections," added Rania Mankarious, the CEO of Crimestoppers of Houston.
In 2019, $201 million dollars were lost due to romance scams. 2020 is expected to be much worse.
"Especially given this COVID era, more people are lonely more people are going online for love and connection and those predators know that," Mankarious said.
Here are some tips to avoid romance scams. Beware if the individual seems too perfect. Beware if the person tries to isolate you from your family. Never send money or financial information to someone you haven't met in person. Be careful what you post and make public online.
"The online world is both wonderful and scary and we are constantly tell you people use it of course, but be careful what you post," Mankarious told us.
If you've been scammed in any way, report it. Don't be embarrassed, because you can use your experience to help others.
"The best defense is education it's letting the public know that this happens in the best way to let the public know is to put a face to the name and a face to the image. letting people know that it happened to me this is my story this is how I became a victim of it," Mankarious said.
Experts say when you start talking to someone online to take their name and image and start investigating. Hopefully you find nothing but love and a true romance instead of someone that wants to steal your heart, so they can steal your money too.