A sweetheart of a warning, just in time for Valentine’s Day!
This is a serious problem and a growing one! Con artists use dating and social networking sites to find victims and, according to North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, it costs victims BIG money! The scammers target people who go online looking for companionship. Cooper says they go to sites such as Facebook, Match.com and Christianmingle.com to find victims, win their trust and then steal their money! Cooper’s office heard from 25 victims of sweetheart scams last year alone who lost a combined total of more than $2 million dollars! And consider most victims probably don’t report it!
The typical method of operation based on those complaints – the scammers start by sending messages expressing an interest in getting to know the victim. The messages are usually followed by long online conversations aimed at convincing the victim that the romance is real. Once the relationship is established, the con artist claims to experience an emergency while traveling or working overseas and asks the victim to wire money. Seniors are key targets! One of the complaints to Cooper’s office came from a senior in Lexington who lost more than $1 million to a man who befriended her on Facebook. He led her to believe he was originally from Charlotte but was working in Africa. He conned her into repeatedly sending him money until he could return to North Carolina to marry her.
The advice: No matter what the amount—NEVER send or wire money to a stranger you meet online. I’ve never heard of ANYONE getting their money back! And if you think you or someone you know may be caught up in a Sweetheart Scam, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or filing a complaint online at www.ncdoj.gov.