COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKBN) – With the Valentine’s Day holiday coming up, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is warning Ohioans to be careful on online dating sites.
DeWine warns of individuals who won’t meet in person, claim to have an emergency need for money, or request payment using wire transfers or prepaid cards could be con artists in disguise.
Since 2013, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office has received more than 90 complaints involving romance or “sweetheart” scams, with an average reported loss of about $22,000. The highest reported losses are hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Con artists typically meet their victims online through dating websites or social networking. They communicate for a few months through email, instant messaging, or phone calls, and eventually ask the victim to send money using wire transfers or prepaid money cards.
“Victims of this scam think they’ve found the right person, but often they end up losing thousands of dollars. Online dating works well for many people, but you have to be very careful. Don’t send money to someone you’ve never met in person,” said Attorney General Mike DeWine.
The top three signs of a romance scam are individuals who:
- Won’t meet in person. Romance scammers often claim to live in the U.S. but say they are temporarily located overseas due to a military assignment, business trip, or personal vacation. Despite their professed love for the victim, they do not meet the victim in person.
- Have an urgent need for money. After a relationship has been established, romance scammers claim to have a problem requiring the victim’s help and money. For example, they say that their wallet was stolen, a family member has become very sick, or they are stuck at customs in a foreign country for not paying taxes.
- Ask for wire transfers or prepaid cards. Romance scammers ask their victims to send money using a wire transfer service or prepaid cards, because once money is sent through one of these methods, it is very difficult to trace or recover.
Attorney General DeWine offers consumers the following tips to protect themselves:
- Research someone you meet online; don’t rely 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.