Ohio Attorney General DeWine warns of online ‘sweetheart scams’

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WDTN) – Valentine’s Day is around the corner and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine wants to warn consumers that some online daters are actually con artists in disguise.

There are some scammers who create phony profiles on dating websites and social media platforms to attract victims, establish relationships with them, and then trick them into sending money.

The Ohio Attorney General’s office said that in 2015, it received about 40 complaints involving so-called “sweetheart” scams. The average reported loss was about $7,300.

“These scams can be especially hard on people, because con artists often spend weeks or months developing relationships with their victims,” he said. “Scammers gain victims’ trust and affection, even though they’ve never met in person.”

In a typical sweetheart scam, the con artist claims to be from the U.S. but temporarily located somewhere else.

For example, the scammer may pretend to be a military member stationed in Afghanistan, an engineer building bridges in South Africa, an oil rig worker off the Gulf coast, a contractor working in Nigeria, or a businessperson stuck in London trying to get back to the U.S.

After establishing a relationship with the victim through messages and phone calls, the scammer claims to have a problem requiring the victim’s financial assistance (such as a lost wallet or medical emergency).

Victims are asked to send money using a wire-transfer service, prepaid card, or other hard-to-trace payment method. Once the money is sent, it is nearly impossible to recover.

Tips to avoid sweetheart scam include:

  • Research someone you meet online; don’t rely only on what that person tells you. Perform Internet searches and consider getting a background check.
  • Be cautious of individuals who claim it was destiny or fate that brought you together.
  • Talk to friends and family members about any online relationships.
  • Don’t send money to someone you’ve only met online, even if you have developed a relationship with the individual.
  • Be very skeptical of requests for money sent via wire transfer or prepaid money cards. These are preferred payment methods for scammers.
  • Consumers who suspect a scam should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or http://www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov.

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