With October being Cybersecurity Awareness Month, the Fort Collins Police Department is cautioning residents about a specific type of online crime that they see happen to innocent people all too often – romance scams.

In some cases, individuals who become involved in romantic relationships over the internet end up having their personal information, or even money, stolen by the person on the other side of the screen.

Fort Collins Police witnessed this exact scenario take place earlier this year when an elderly woman in the community fell victim to a highly convincing romance scam via social media. In this case, the suspect befriended the woman online and worked to develop a relationship over time. The suspect gathered details about the woman's personal interests and beliefs and then used them to manipulate her. At one point, the suspect recited Bible verses to the victim and ultimately convinced her to send a large amount of money that he claimed would go towards a religious program he was creating. The saavy suspect even took the time to set up a fake website to make the program seem legitimate.

When the woman's adult children became aware of the relationship, and furthermore, learned that there was a financial element to it, they reached out to FCPS.

As law enforcement investigated the situation, they quickly determined that it was a romance scam. Fortunately, in this case, detectives were able to work with the victim's bank to stop the transfer process, and were able to return more than $20,000 that was fraudulently taken from her.

The victim in this recent incident was fortunate that police were able to recover her lost funds, but in many cases, other victims are not as lucky. Police explain that it's extremely difficult to recover money once it's been sent to a scammer. Scammers frequently go to extensive lengths to hide their true identities and also tend to target victims who may be vulnerable, such as elderly individuals or those who have lost a spouse.

Although the woman involved in this case does not want to be publicly identified, she did want her story to be shared so that others in the community do not fall prey to this type of crime. To learn more about the signs of romance and other common scams, visit https://www.fcgov.com/police/crime-prevention.php.

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