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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > February 2014 > Avoid Sweetheart Scams this Valentine’s Day

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Avoid Sweetheart Scams this Valentine’s Day

With Valentine’s Day approaching, love is on many people’s minds. Some Ohioans are sure to meet that special someone online, perhaps through a dating website or social media. Some may truly find companionship, but others may actually be connecting with potential scammers.

In a typical sweetheart scam, a scammer will use dating websites or social media to identify and develop relationships with potential victims. The scammer may communicate with victims by phone calls, text messages, emails, instant messages, or postal mail. Once a relationship is established, the scammer will request money, usually through wire-transfer or a pre-paid money card. The scammer will likely provide an elaborate story, explaining that the money will cover airfare to visit the victim, medical expenses, or costs associated with taking military leave. Regardless of the pitch, the result is always the same. Any money sent using a wire-transfer service or pre-paid money card will be lost.  
Since January 2013, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office has received at least 55 complaints related to sweetheart scams. The average reported financial loss was more than $25,000.   
Consider the following tips for avoiding sweetheart scams:
  • Do your research; never solely rely on what the person tells you. Perform Internet searches and consider a background check on your “sweetheart.”
  • If the person provides a photo, conduct an image search to determine where else the photo appears online. This may reveal if the photo has been copied from another online profile or website.
  • Be cautious of individuals who claim it was destiny or fate that brought you together. Scammers may use emotional angles to manipulate potential victims.
  • Talk to friends and family members about online relationships, especially if you plan to meet the person face-to-face. Consider bringing a friend with you.
  • Never send money via wire-transfer or pre-paid money card to someone you meet online, even if you have developed a relationship.
  • Never reveal personal information, such as your address, credit card number, bank account number, or Social Security number to someone online. 
Consumers who suspect a scam should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or