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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > February 2021 > Don’t Fall For Romance Scams This Valentine’s Day

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Don’t Fall For Romance Scams This Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day can be a time to seek out that special someone, and con artists know it. Fake online romance or “sweetheart” scams are prevalent, so it is important to avoid them to protect your heart and 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 a military member stationed overseas or a businessperson working in another country. They might 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 – say, for airfare to visit, for hospital fees or other 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.
Last year, 39 Ohioans reported losing almost $870,000 to sweetheart scams. For example, a Franklin County woman was the victim of a sweetheart scam with a man she had been in contact with through an online game chat feature. She sent money to the man via Bitcoin. The man deposited money into her account, which then she was to send to his son’s caregiver. The transaction was later reversed and the consumer lost $64,000 to the scammer.
In another sweetheart scam, a Montgomery County man began a multi-year online relationship with a woman he met on a dating website. Over the course their relationship, he was scammed out of $10,000 worth of gift cards and risked identity theft after providing her with his Social Security number.
Tips to avoid sweetheart scams include:
  • Research someone you meet online; do not rely solely on what that person tells you. Conduct internet searches and check with independent sources to verify the person’s claims.
  • Be cautious of individuals who claim that destiny or fate brought you together or, soon after you meet online, claim to love you.
  • Be especially wary if you have just lost a loved one; many times scammers scour through obituaries to find people who have recently suffered a loss.
  • Talk to friends and family members about any online relationships, even if the other person asks you to keep the relationship a secret.
  • Don’t send money to someone you have met only online, even if you have developed a relationship with the individual.
  • Be very skeptical of requests for money sent via wire transfer, Bitcoin, 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.