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Swindling Sweethearts Truly Offer ‘Love’ In All The Wrong Places

If you’ve never heard of romance or sweetheart scams—or even if you have—it’s more important than ever to make sure Volusia County residents of all ages know about this possible pitfall and how to avoid becoming a victim.

This kind of scam preys on one of the oldest, strongest desires in our society—the need for love and companionship. That’s exactly what impostors are counting on: That the men and women using dating app sites, social media, or in person to find love are easily fooled.

The goal of these criminals is to gain their victims’ trust and swindle them out of thousands of dollars by pretending to connect emotionally. Once the bad guys have lured their victims, the scammers may:

  • Tell the potential victim they need money to handle an emergency, deal with a family tragedy, recover from theft or a stolen identity, or travel to finally meet in person, or
  • Persuade their victim to open a new bank account, wire stolen funds to it, and then convince the victim to forward those funds to another account, so the victim is involved in bank fraud.

This kind of scam even happens on our own Sheriff’s Office Facebook pages. It occurs when someone writes unrelated comments on our social media posts, trying to lure potential victims by flirting or complimenting them to engage them to continue the online conversation.

Recently, our detectives launched an investigation after a west Volusia resident filed a complaint saying she realized she was victimized after meeting someone on a dating app. They communicated by text and phone. Before long, he involved her in his bank accounts, asking her assistance to move his money to different accounts.

He told her his job as an oil rig engineer in a remote location made it difficult for him to easily access the Internet or receive paper mail.

She agreed to help move his money as requested. However, when a transfer didn’t go through, the male asked her to wire money from her bank via a cashier’s check, which she did. Four more requests later and she finally had to say no; she was out of money after sending him hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Fortunately her bank told her some of the wire transfers might be able to be reversed; she’s working to recoup some of her losses.

It’s so important for everyone to know these kinds of evildoers are lurking on the Internet. If you stay vigilant, hopefully you won’t fall for such costly schemes.

Red Flags: Here are some important tips from Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s website: www.My Florida You should pause if Mr. or Ms. Right:

  • Quickly pushes to move any communication off the dating site or app:
  • Claims to be overseas on business or military deployment;
  • Provides details, interests, or life events that are amazingly similar to information you have shared or that is publicly available;
  • Give lots of attention and compliments;
  • Shares information that contradicts something they previously said.
  • Quickly declares their love for you;
  • Promises to visit you or meet but cancels, because of an emergency or unforeseen expense;
  • Asks you to send money via wire, gift card or person-to-person money transfer apps; or
  • Asks to establish a new or joint bank account to send funds.

Guard Against Being
Victimized By Scammers:

  •  Don’t rush the relationship and be sure to ask questions;
  • Ask a trusted friend or family member for their opinion;
  • Do a reverse image search to see whether their image is connected to any other accounts under different names or with different information;
  • Know that some scammers may request intimate photos or videos to later use them against you for extortion;
  • Know that common careers some scammers may list to explain why they’re overseas include: oil rig engineer, a deployed servicemember, a doctor working for an international organization, or a business owner with international contacts.
  • Never send funds via wire, money order, gift cards, or money transfer apps.
  • Never establish a joint bank account with, or give account access to, an unknown person.
  • Immediately stop contact if you suspect a scam and:
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is a scam.

If you think you’ve been victimized, call us immediately at 386.248.1777. That’s why we’re here. Please share this information with your friends or family members to help us educate everyone.

Stay smart and stay safe,
Sheriff Chitwood