Some say love is a scam — in some cases, it literally is.

The FBI is warning people to be wary of romance scams ahead of Valentine’s Day.

Romance scams occur when a person adopts a fake online identity to gain a victim’s trust and affection. The scammer then uses the illusion of a romantic relationship to manipulate and/or steal from the victim.

The FBI says about 24,000 Americans reported losing about $1 billion to romance scams last year. Here in Texas, a total of 38,640 were victimized by online scammers in 2020 — resulting in a loss of $313,565,225.

The FBI recommends the following for those who develop a romantic relationship with someone online:

  • Research the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the image, name, or details have been used elsewhere.
  • Go slowly and ask lots of questions.
  • Beware if the individual attempts to isolate you from friends and family or requests inappropriate photos or financial information that could later be used to extort you.
  • Beware if the individual promises to meet in person but then always comes up with an excuse for why he or she can’t. If you haven’t met the person after a few months, for whatever reason, you have good reason to be suspicious.
  • Never send money to anyone you’ve only communicated with online or by phone, regardless of how in love you are or how in love they say they are with you.

If you suspect an online relationship is a scam, the FBI says to stop all contact immediately and file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. You can report scams whether or not you’ve lost money.