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Don’t Be Fooled By ‘Prince Charming’— He (Or She’s) Really A Scammer

This week I want to talk about romance or sweetheart scams, which unfortunately occur when imposters pretend to be seeking love on social media, dating sites, or even in person, but their real love is swindling victims out of their money.

This type of scam happens when the imposter smoothly seeks to build an emotional connection by convincing the victim that they have common interests, similar life goals, and should be together. When the scammer has built this trust, that’s when the swindling begins.
The Sheriff’s Office receives complaints of this fraud happening to people of all ages and both sexes, when criminals prey on people who are lonely. We’ve had cases involving victims who unwittingly sent intimate photos or videos to scammers, only to be used for threats of extortion later.

Recently, a man in his early 60s becoming a victim after befriending a woman on Facebook—unfortunately he realized this only after sending her $20,000 worth of gift cards over several months.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has very helpful information on her website ( about how to avoid becoming a victim of sweetheart scams.
The Internet attracts all types of opportunists looking to steal what’s not theirs. Here are some red flags to watch for when from the attorney general’s website.

Once scammers establish an emotional connection with the victim, they may either:
Claim they need money urgently to cover an emergency, deal with a family tragedy, recover from theft or a stolen identity, or to travel to finally meet (the victim) in person or:
Convince their victim to open a new bank account, wire stolen funds to it, and then have the victim forward those funds to another account—involving the victim in bank fraud.

Proceed with caution if a romantic interest does any of these:

  1. Quickly pushes to move communication with you off the dating site or app;
  2. Claims to be overseas, on business or on military deployment;
  3. Provides details, interests, or life events that are strikingly similar to details you’ve shared, or that are publicly available;
  4. Floods you with attention;
  5. Shares information that contradicts previous statements;
  6. Prematurely declares their love for you;
  7. Promises to visit or meet but cancels due to an emergency or unforeseen expense;
  8. Asks for money via wire, gift card, or person-to-person money transfer apps;
  9. Asks you to establish a new or joint bank account to send funds.

Protect yourself:

  • Proceed slowly and ask questions;
  • Some scammers may wait for victims to pursue them in order to gain trust;
  • Ask a trusted friend or family member for their opinion;
  • Do a reverse image search to find out whether their image is connected to any other accounts with different information;
  • Watch for inconsistencies;
  • Beware that some scammers may request intimate photos or videos of you to use them later for extortion;
  • Be careful NOT to share too much personal or private information;
  • Never send money via wire, money order, gift cards, or money transfer apps;
  • Never open a joint bank account with or give account access to anyone you don’t know well;
  • End the relationship immediately if you suspect a scam.

Sadly, if someone seems too good to be true, it may be a scam.

If a romantic interest turns out to be a scammer, report their account on the dating or social media website.

If you sent the scammer money, contact the bank, gift card company, or wire service immediately to see if they can stop the transaction. If not, consider filing a police report.
File a complaint with the Florida Attorney General’s Office at or call 866.966.7226.

Stay safe and stay vigilant,
Sheriff Mike Chitwood