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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > February 2018 > Five Ways to Avoid Online Romance Scams

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Five Ways to Avoid Online Romance Scams

It’s that time of year when you or someone you know might be seeking out that special someone, and con artists know it. Fake online romance is prevalent, so we’ve outlined ways to avoid sweetheart scams and protect your hard-earned money.
Romance scams typically begin when a con artist creates a phony profile on a dating website or on social media to attract unsuspecting victims. Many times, con artists claim to be located in another state or country — pretending to be an oilrig worker, a military member stationed overseas, or a businessperson working in another country. They may even send fake photos or documentation in order to “prove” their identity. The scammer and the soon-to-be victim may spend countless hours communicating before the scammer asks for money for reasons such as airfare to visit, hospital fees or medical costs, to get out of a foreign country, or to access an inheritance the scammer promises to share with the victim.

Victims generally are asked to send money using a wire-transfer service, money order, prepaid card, gift card, or other hard-to-trace payment method. Once the money is sent, it is nearly impossible to recover. In 2017, about 40 Ohioans reported losing a total of $1.6 million to sweetheart scams.

A woman in Henry County said she fell in love with a supposed foreign businessman who convinced her to send more than $80,000, which he promised to return as soon as he finished a project in Cambodia. She had received photos of him and talked to him over video chat (or so she thought), but her relatives convinced her that he was actually a romance con artist.
A Preble County woman met a con artist on a popular dating website and eventually sent him money and a new cell phone for his new business venture. The scammer sent her a copy of a passport and claimed to be from the Dayton area, making the ploy seem real, but the consumer ended up losing a reported $37,000.
Tips to avoid sweetheart scams include:
  1. Research someone you meet online; don’t rely solely on what that person tells you. Conduct internet searches and check with independent sources to verify the person’s claims.
  2. Be cautious of individuals who claim it was destiny or fate that brought you together or who claim to love you soon after you meet online. 
  3. Talk to friends and family members about any online relationships, even if the other person asks you to keep the relationship a secret. 
  4. Don’t send money to someone you’ve only met online, even if you have developed a relationship with the individual. 
  5. Be very skeptical of requests for money sent via wire transfer, money order, prepaid money cards, or gift cards. These are preferred payment methods for scammers.
Consumers who suspect a scam or an unfair business practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at or 800-282-0515.