OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The COVID-19 pandemic has more and more people looking for love online – and a new study finds Oklahomans are shelling out more in online romance scams than any other state in the country.
The study, by highspeedinternet.com, used data from the FBI on online scams and catfishing.
To protect your heart and pocketbook, FBI agents and researchers agree on one big thing to keep you from looking for love in all the wrong places.
“If it’s too good to be true, it’s probably too good to be true,” said FBI Supervisory Special Agent Casey Cox.
“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” said Victoria Merinda, a researcher associated with the study.
According to the study, Oklahomans lost the most money to these scams in 2019.
“When you look at Oklahoma last year there was 182 victims but the total loss was almost $13 million,” Merinda said.
She and other researchers with highspeedinternet.com – a third-party website that compares internet plans and trends – used data from the FBI to reach their findings.
However, the study doesn’t take into account how much each individual victim handed over.
“But we kind of averaged it out and it averages out to about $70,000 per victim,” Merinda said.
Cox says romance scams are one of them many online fraud schemes his agency investigates.
“We definitely see romance frauds here in Oklahoma and the dollar amounts can range from a few hundred bucks to millions of dollars,” he said.
Some of the most common signs someone is after your wallet and not your heart include immediately asking for money, never being able to meet in person and one other thing.
“People that fall in love instantly and it just seems that this is the most perfect human being on the planet,” Cox said.
To keep these master manipulators at bay, the FBI suggests limiting what information you put online, especially on dating sites that list your interests.
“If you like classical music, they’ll educate themselves in classical music and they’ll build that connection,” Cox said.
FBI agents say often times when your money is taken, it goes overseas, unfortunately making it harder to get back.