Online ‘Romance Scams’ Stole Nearly $6.2M in Santa Clara County in 2023

Criminals preying on the romantic dreams of Santa Clara County residents last year scammed 102 victims of $6.16 million last year, the FBI San Francisco reported this week, a sharp drop from 2022.

The losses in Santa Clara County were the third highest in Northern California, behind Contra Costa and Alameda counties, prosecutors said, while the number of victim complaints of online fraud in connection with bogus romantic partners in the county was the highest in the region.

The complaints of what the FBI calls “romance scams” in Northern California accounted for more than $27 million in losses. Romance scam victims were reported in every county within the FBI San Francisco division’s territory last year.

In a press release, the FBI reported that as in previous years, the age group with the highest victim count was 60 years and older, with a victim count of 138 and a dollar amount loss of over $14 million last year. “While the total reported local victim count and dollar amount loss was lower in 2023 compared to 493 victims and losses of over $46 million in 2022,” the FBI reported, “ the actual numbers are likely much higher because many victims are too embarrassed to report they’ve been scammed.”

The feds said one rising trend finds romance scammers persuading individuals to send money to invest or trade cryptocurrency.

After gaining the confidence and trust of the victim, the scammer then directs the victim to a fraudulent website or application for an investment opportunity, according to the FBI. After the victim has invested an initial amount on the platform and sees an alleged profit, the scammers allow the victim to withdraw a small amount of money. Eventually, the scammer instructs the victim to invest a more considerable amount.

“When the victim is ready to withdraw funds again, the scammers create reasons why this cannot happen, [and] the victim is informed additional taxes or fees need to be paid, or the minimum account balance has not been met to allow a withdrawal.” the FBI reported. Sometimes, a “customer service group” gets involved, which is also part of the scam.

Ultimately, victims cannot withdraw any money, and the scammers most often stop communicating with the victim after they cease to send additional funds.

Here are tips the FBI offered to avoid being a victim of a romance scam:

  • Never send money, trade, or invest per the advice of someone you have solely met online.
  • Do not disclose your current financial status to unknown and untrusted individuals.
  • Do not provide your banking information, Social Security Number, copies of your identification or passport, or any other sensitive information to anyone online or to a site you do not know is legitimate.
  • If an online investment or trading site is promoting unbelievable profits, it is most likely that—unbelievable.
  • Be cautious of individuals who claim to have exclusive investment opportunities and urge you to act fast.
  • If you believe you are a victim of a romance scam, report the activity to the IC3 at and immediately contact your financial institution.

Here are some of the totals for 2023:


  • Loss: $27,278,098
  • Victims: 397

Santa Clara County:

  • Loss: $6,158,575
  • Victims: 102

Alameda County:

  • Loss: $9,427,814
  • Victims: 68

Contra Costa County:

  • Loss: $6,776,481
  • Victims: 65

San Benito County:

  • Loss: $1,500
  • Victims: 2

San Francisco County:

  • Loss: $1,611,997
  • Victims: 45

San Mateo County:

  • Loss: $1,420,341
  • Victims: 29

Santa Cruz County:

  • Loss: $173,548
  • Victims: 18


Three decades of journalism experience, as a writer and editor with Gannett, Knight-Ridder and Lee newspapers, as a business journal editor and publisher and as a weekly newspaper editor in Scotts Valley and Gilroy; with the Weeklys group since 2017. Recipient of several first-place writing and editing awards, California News Publishers Association.

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