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 (www.MyFloridaLegal.com) 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:
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 MyFloridaLegal.com or call 866.966.7226.
Stay safe and stay vigilant,
Sheriff Mike Chitwood