HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — With Valentine’s Day just weeks away, the FBI warns those looking for love of romance scammers online.

According to the FBI, a romance scam typically occurs when a criminal adopts a fake online identity to gain a victim’s affection and trust.

Scammers then use the illusion of romance or intimacy to manipulate and/or steal from the victim. These people are great manipulators and will appear to be believably genuine, but a telltale sign that you are communicating with a scammer is if they refuse to meet in person.

These con artists are on most dating and social media sites.

“The scammer’s intention is to establish a relationship as quickly as possible, endear himself to the victim, and gain trust,” a release from the FBI stated. “Scammers may propose marriage and make plans to meet in person, but that will never happen. Eventually, they will ask for money.”

Authorities say a line often used by scammers is that they are in the building and construction industry and are engaged in projects outside the U.S. That makes it easier to avoid meeting in person. This also makes it more plausible for them to ask for large amounts of money a “medical emergency” or “unexpected legal fee.”

If you are flirting with someone online and they ask for your bank account information to deposit money, then they are most likely using your account to carry out other theft and fraud schemes, according to the FBI.

If at any point you suspect your online relationship is a scam, the FBI recommends stopping all contact immediately. Victims of these romance scams are urged to file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

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