EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — Last year in the U.S., nearly 19,000 people fell victim to romance scams, losing roughly $700 million total, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

In a press release, the FBI says a romance scam is when someone uses a fake online identity to manipulate a person into trusting them with the goal of getting money. The scammer will usually try to initiate a relationship as quickly as possible and may even propose marriage before asking for money.

Oftentimes, the FBI warns the scammer will pose as someone who is in the military or is outside of the U.S. so they can easily get out of meeting the person face-to-face and it may seem more legitimate when they ask for money.

If you find yourself at the start of an online relationship, the FBI says you can protect yourself by taking a relationship slow and asking lots of questions.

If they ask you to leave a dating app quickly or if they promise to meet you in person but always find an excuse, the FBI says these are red flags that should not be ignored.

The FBI also suggests doing a reverse image search to see if their profile picture comes up with a different name, as that’s a telltale sign it’s a scam.

Regardless of how in love you think you are, the FBI says to never send funds of any kind to someone you’ve only communicated with by phone.

If an online relationship begins to feel suspicious you’re urged to stop all contact immediately and file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Center.