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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > February 2023 > Beware of romance scams this Valentine’s Day

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Beware of romance scams this Valentine’s Day

If Valentine’s Day has you motivated to meet someone special, be careful of con artists looking to take advantage of others.
It’s important to protect your heart and your hard-earned money by watching for “sweetheart” – or online romance – scams.
Sweetheart scams typically originate with a phony profile on a dating website or social media as way of attracting unsuspecting victims.
Many  of these scammers claim to be in another state or country, often pretending to be a military member stationed overseas or a businessperson working outside the United States. They might even send fake photos or documentation to “prove” their identity.
Scammers might spend many hours communicating with a victim before asking for money. Or they might request money for airfare to visit, to pay a hospital bill, to get out of a foreign country or to access an inheritance that the scammers promise to share with their victims.
Victims are usually asked to send money via gift card, wire-transfer service, money order, prepaid card or other hard-to-trace payment method. Once the money is sent, it is nearly impossible to recover.
After receiving the money, scammers do one of two things: create a new emergency and ask for more money, or stop corresponding, leaving the victim duped and broken-hearted.
In 2022, 35 Ohioans reported sweetheart scams to the Attorney General’s Office with losses totaling almost $1.8 million.
In one instance, a Muskingum County woman sent $15,000 to a man she met on social media who pretended to be a member of the military in need of an emergency medical procedure. The scam was detected when the woman contacted the Army Investigative Unit and was informed that no such person existed.
In another sweetheart scam, a Mercer County man refinanced loans and sold property in order to send $200,000 to a woman he met on social media – money he never recovered.
Victims of sweetheart scams don’t fit a pattern; they may be male or female, young or old. The common denominator is that they believe in love and believe the romance is legitimate.  

Here are some ways to avoid sweetheart scams:
  • Research people you meet online; do not rely solely on what they tell you. Conduct internet searches, including reverse-image searches, and check with independent sources to verify a person’s claims. To do a reverse-image search, copy and paste the picture of the person you have been corresponding with into a search engine to see whether it is used on multiple accounts.
  • Be cautious of “love bombing,” which occurs when a new love interest showers you with affection and compliments. Be cautious of individuals who claim that destiny or fate brought you together, or claim to love you after a short time.
  • Be especially wary if you have just lost a loved one; many times, scammers study obituaries to find people who have recently suffered a loss.
  • Talk to friends and family members about online relationships, even if the other person asks you to keep the relationship 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 to be sent via wire transfer, cryptocurrency, peer-to-peer payment systems, money order, prepaid money cards or gift cards. These are preferred payment methods for scammers.
If you suspect a scam or an unfair business practice, contact the Attorney General's Office at or 800-282-0515.