The victims are often lonely people who have idealized romantic love affairs, said Catlett. They often build a relationship and then start asking for small amounts of money. Scammers may also ask you to accept a valuable package and mail it somewhere else, but that might be a way to use you to cover up for criminal activity.
Sgt. Bryan Dusch with the Quincy Police Department said officers will do what they can to help victims of the scams, even turning the case over to federal law enforcement.
“Many people look to online dating sites, and social media to meet someone special”, said Steve Bernas of the BBB. The profiles typically claim such attributes as strong faith, and often the person claims to be widowed with a child, or to be in the military or involved with an worldwide business. He was actually a truck driver in Georgia. Others have been asked to bail the suspect out of jail for a crime he/she didn’t commit or help him or her afford a costly but necessary home or vehicle fix. He took a lavish tropical vacation – without her – and paid off his debts. They hustled over and arrested him.
The BBB finds there is no “typical” victim of romance fraud. It can happen to anybody who is gay or straight.
Victims of sweetheart scams believe they’re in a committed relationship and want to believe that the scammer is telling the truth.
The Ontario Provincial Police and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) recently reminded people that in 2017, Canadian victims lost over $17 million to scammers pretending to be in love. They romance their victims online for several months until the victims gain their trust. Officials note military members will never need money for leave or health care.
The BBB says many of these scams are out of West Africa, particularly Nigeria, Russia and Ukraine.
The BBB has reported that at any given moment there are 25,000 fraudsters online.
He said the scammer would entice a prospective date with endearing messages that made the victim feel loved. This is his third study released through BBB.
The study’s author, C. Steven Baker, is well-known for exposing fraud, also outing puppy scams and tech support scams in the past year.
Protect your identity and your wallet.
Never send personal information like your birthdate, address, or financial information with anyone you have just met online or in person. This way, if the dating site identifies the scammer as being bogus and shuts them down, they are already in contact with their victims elsewhere.
Don’t send intimate photos or videos of yourself.
Scammers hit one Louisville victim especially hard. Don’t succumb to pleas of financial crisis. “If they are constantly trying to get you off a public platform to a private one, that’s a trigger as well”.
These schemes typically start on dating sites. This can include providing banking and other sensitive information to the scammer.
Do your research. Pour over the profile image and description. If it sounds too good ot be true, verify it. You can also search online for a profile name, email, or phone number to see what adds up and what doesn’t.
Many romance scammers use stolen credit cards to join the sites and post fake profiles. Request other forms of identification, like a photo of them holding a piece of paper with their username on it.
Ask specific questions about details given in a profile.
Pay attention to communication. They often take months to develop to the point where money is exchanged.