Seniors Today Newspaper
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Beware of ‘Swindling Sweethearts’

This week I want to warn readers about falling for online scams in which someone pretends to be seeking love on dating websites or social media. The impostor befriends the victim online, gains that person’s trust, and ultimately swindles the victim out of thousands.

Unfortunately, this nightmare happened to a Volusia County resident recently and our detectives are actively investigating it as fraud. I am sharing her story to help you avoid letting it happen to you or someone you care about.
By remaining vigilant and becoming informed, you can avoid falling victim to these kinds of fraud.

This resident, in her late 60s, met a man online while she was using the Scrabble app. He texted her via the app. Eventually, they spoke on the phone and texted for a few weeks.
Then the male told our victim he worked for a bank and was being sent to Poland. They continued to talk on the phone. Then it escalated when the caller told her he wasn’t in Poland. He said he was actually in Ukraine and was frightened to be in a war zone and wanted to come home.

He told our victim that his credit cards wouldn’t work and asked her to help him purchase an airline ticket to fly home to the United States. She agreed to help, then was contacted by someone at a “travel agency” who instructed her to send nearly $5,000 via electronic wire, which she did.

A week later, the travel agency e-mailed her again. They said more money was needed to get the male home—nearly $9,000—so she went to her bank again and sent the money.
The travel agency continued to contact our victim. This time they requested her to send nearly $50,000 MORE. Finally she stopped responding. Instead, she confided to her family members and contacted the Sheriff’s Office to pursue charges.

Sadly, it’s easy to see how men and women can be duped into becoming victims of crimes like this. Especially people who may be lonely, isolated, and are vulnerable to criminals who prey on victims. It doesn’t have to happen and you can prevent becoming a crime victim!
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody calls this type of scam Swindling Sweethearts or Sweetheart Scams in her Scams At A Glance feature on her website Whatever you call it, everyone needs to be armed with knowledge so you won’t fall for these kinds of scams.
Here are some red flags to watch for. Be wary if the other person:

  • Claims to be overseas on business or military deployment;
  • Quickly seeks to move communication off the dating site or app;
  • Provides details, interests, or life events of their own that are strangely similar to information the victim has shared, or that’s publicly available;
  • Quickly declares their love; and promises to visit or meet, then cancels because of an emergency or unforeseen expense;
  • Asks for money via wire, gift card, or person-to-person money transfer apps; or
  • Asks to establish a new or joint bank account to send money.
    If you or someone you know believes they have been a victim of this or any kind of scam, report it to the Attorney General’s Office at 1.866.966.7226. If you’re a Volusia County resident, call our non-emergency number: 386.248. 1777 or 911 in an emergency. We’re always happy to help.

Stay well and enjoy,
Sheriff Mike Chitwood