Romance scams target elderly Ohioans ahead of Valentine’s Day | #datingscams | #lovescams

CINCINNATI — The Department of Homeland Security has issued a warning about romance-related scams that are targeting elderly Ohioans ahead of Valentines Day.

Romance scams are often plots intended to exploit what appears to be a romantic relationship in order to get the target to part with money or expensive items. The scam style isn’t new, but they’ve increased in prevalence with the rise of social media and dating apps; Homeland Security said technology has made it easier for criminals to successfully find new victims and scam them.

“While romance scams can affect anyone, they can have devastating consequences for elderly members of our community,” said Matt Stentz, HSI Detroit assistant special agent in charge, in a press release. “We are seeing cases of victims giving away significant portions of their savings to these Romeo or romance scams, and sometimes doing so repeatedly under the guise of a relationship.”

If you suspect your loved one might be the victim of a romance scam, there are a few details that can tip you off.

Scams follow a pattern — first, someone reaches out on a dating site or social media. Then, that person will be extremely affectionate, validating and attentive. They often use the victim’s social media pages to learn their likes and dislikes, using that to forge a connection with victims.

They also often claim they’re foreign born, to explain away typical scam-related red flags, like poor grammar or English mistakes in messages.

It’s not unusual for scammers to “court” their victims for months, Homeland Security says. Then, suddenly, the scammer will tell their victim they’re in a jam of some kind that requires they be sent money quickly.

Here are some ways Homeland Security says you can help protect your loved ones for falling for a romance scam:

  • Protect yourself and older loved ones by raising awareness. Although this can be an uncomfortable topic, make sure you, your family and your friends are familiar with romance scams. The more you know about these scams, the better prepared you are to prevent being a victim.
  • Check in on older loved ones. Scammers are seeking to target those living alone or grieving the loss of a spouse as they are more vulnerable.
  • Limit what you share online. Scammers can use details shared on social media and dating sites to better understand and target you.
  • Do your research. Research the individual’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the image, name or other details have been used elsewhere.
  • Go slowly and ask lots of questions. Don’t let the individual rush you to leave a dating service or social media site to communicate directly.
  • Listen to your gut. If the individual seems too good to be true, talk to someone you trust.
  • Don’t overshare personal information. Requests for inappropriate photos or financial information could later be used to extort you.
  • Be suspicious if you haven’t met in person. If the individual promises to meet in person, but consistently comes up with an excuse for cancelling, be suspicious.
  • Don’t send money. Never send money, gift cards or anything of value to anyone you have only communicated with online or by phone.

If you suspect you or someone you know may have already been scammed by a romance scammer, Homeland Security says it’s important to stop speaking to that individual immediately. Report the incident to local law enforcement, notify your financial institutions and keep documents, emails and records of your interactions with the scammer for law enforcement. It’s also important to immediately change your passwords on all accounts.
Victims should also submit a fraud complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, HSI says.

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