PITTSBURGH, W.Va. (WBOY) — As Valentine’s Day approaches, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Pittsburgh is warning residents of West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania about romance scams, which it said are responsible for $7.1 million in losses from nearly 300 victims last year.

The FBI estimated in a press release that there were more losses that went unreported.

Romance scammers use dating sites, apps, chat rooms, and other social media networking sites to build fake relationships with the purpose of taking the victim’s money.

In West Virginia, 103 victims lost roughly $3.4 million in 2022 according to the FBI.

The FBI shared the safety following tips with people who develop a romantic relationship online:

  • Only use reputable, nationally-recognized dating websites, but be aware that scammers can still use those too.
  • Research photos and profiles in other online search tools, like reverse image searches, and ask questions.
  • Never provide your financial information, loan money, nor allow your bank accounts to be used for transfers of funds.
  • Do not allow attempts to isolate you from family and friends.
  • Do not blindly believe the stories of severe life circumstances, tragedies, family deaths, injuries, or other hardships geared at keeping your interest and concern.
  • If you are planning to meet someone in person you have met online, meet in a public place and let someone know where you will be and what time you should return home.
  • If you are traveling to a foreign country to meet someone check the State Department’s Travel Advisories beforehand, provide your itinerary to family and friends, and do not travel alone if possible.

It also advised anyone who believes their online relationship to be a scam to stop all contact immediately and file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, even if they haven’t been scammed out of money yet. Those who have lost money are advised to report the incident to their financial institution as well.