Those who turn to online dating sites and social media to find love and friendship need to be cautious of online ‘catfishing’ scams, according to Attorney General Andy Beshear.
In advance of Valentine’s Day, Beshear issued a Scam Alert to warn Kentuckians that if an online love interest or new friend asks for money it is most likely a scam.
Last year, Beshear’s office received reports from 11 Kentuckians who said they lost nearly $300,000 after being “catfished” by an online scammer who used the secrecy of the internet to pretend to be someone they are not.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), reports of romance scams have tripled over the past five years and in 2016, $220 million was lost nationwide to online dating scams.
Beshear said con artists open fake profiles using stolen photos to lure in unsuspecting victims and instead of finding love, victims are left with an empty bank account and a broken heart.
“We are our brother’s and sister’s keepers and this rings especially true when it comes to preventing our loved ones from falling victim to scams,” said Beshear. “One of the best ways to prevent a ‘catfishing’ scam is to simply take time to check in on our friends and family and ask about any new or online relationships.”
The FTC and Beshear’s office recommend never sending untraceable methods of payment to anyone you just met online, and to watch for signs often associated with romance or friendship scams, including someone who:
· Falls in love, or befriends quickly.
· Says they are working overseas or serving abroad in the military.
· Asks you to leave the official dating, or social media site to communicate.
· Claims they need money for an emergency and says they will pay you back when they come to meet you.
Beshear also recommends that everyone, especially veterans, active-duty service members, reservists and guard members, conduct a regular Google image search to help prevent their photos from being used by scammers.
Last week, Beshear and AARP Kentucky launched Mission Veterans Protected, which aims to reverse the high rate of veterans, service members and military families being targeted and falling victim to scams. Military personnel may visit ag.ky.gov/veterans to learn how to identify impersonation scams and avoid the top 10 most common veteran-specific scams.
Since taking office, Beshear has made protecting Kentucky families from scams one of the top priorities for his office.