COLUMBUS, Ohio - "Sweetheart scams" - ploys where con artists court people, often on online dating websites, and convince them to send them money or other costly gifts - are on the rise, the Ohio Attorney General's Office warns.
“When you meet someone online, you have to be careful,” Attorney General Mike DeWine said. “Some con artists spend months developing relationships with their victims. They may even send gifts or flowers. Eventually, they claim to have some emergency — they’re caring for a sick child or they need money for medical costs. If you haven’t met the individual in person, don’t send money.”
Complaints of sweetheart scams doubled in 2013 over 2012, and the average reported loss per victim since January 2013 is $25,000. The most costly scam? $600,000.
According to the AG office:
The scammer eventually asks the victim to send money to help cover some type of cost, such as airfare to visit the victim, medical expenses, or fees associated with military leave. The scammer often asks the victim to send the money via wire transfer. Once the money is sent, it is nearly impossible to recover.
Tips from the Attorney General:
- Research someone you meet online; don’t rely on what that person tells you. Perform Internet searches and consider getting a background check.
- Be cautious of individuals who claim it was destiny or fate that brought you together.
- Talk to friends and family members about online relationships.
- Don’t send money to someone you meet online, even if you have developed a relationship.
- Be very skeptical of requests for money sent via wire transfer or prepaid money cards. These are preferred payment methods for scammers.
Consumers who suspect a scam should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov .