OMAHA, Neb. (KCAU) — Valentine’s Day is coming up in a few days, however, those who are looking for a special companion online need to be careful.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Omaha is warning people about online romance fraud.

Romance fraud occurs when criminals assume fake identities online and attempt to gain a victim’s trust and affection then create excuses to ask for money. According to FBI Omaha’s Office, more than 19,000 victims of romance fraud reported more than $700 million in losses in 2022. A member from the Omaha FBI said that there are a number of red flags to look out for when it comes to online dating.

“The red flags are the reasons they can’t meet in person and excuses of why they need money. I would say really you should never transfer money to somebody you have not met in person,” explained Ken Schmuz, of the FBI Ohama Office.

According to a press release from the FBI, scammers are present on most dating sites, though the FBI does recommend using dating sites with national reputations. In addition, the FBI recommends researching the person’s name and profile, which can help to determine if the profile has been spoofed. Those who are dating online should remember to use good judgment when communicating online and especially when deciding whether to send money to someone that was met online.

Victims are usually over the age of 40 and are divorced, widowed, elderly or disabled.

The Bureau recommends being careful about leaving a social media site to communicate through email or instant messaging.