Beware of the Romance Scam: Fake Valentines Online on Valentine’s Day or Any Day of the Year

One northwest suburban man thought he found The One, but his online “beauty” turned out to be a crook. CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker reports.

CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker interviewed Kurt Link, who reports he lives in a suburb in Lake County. He was scammed out of at least $7500 when he sent money to an online contact he never met in person. When he started questioning the online contact, the online contact accused him of “going mad” and being “simply paranoiac” (sic). The contact accused the victim of “thrown me one in this dreadful city” (apparently a city in Russia). The contact also used other attempts to manipulate the victim with guilt.

Hello my beloved Kurt! Thanks that you to me have written you your letter! I love you with all heart and all soul! I wish to be with you and only with you! Kurt, you the man of all my life! I wish to be yours forever! And I hope that soon it will be executed (sic).

— Excerpt from Online Offender “Olga”

FTC Warning Signs of Romance Scams

Online contacts, posing as romance interests, often declare they are out of the country for business or military service. Then they often ask for money from victims to rescue them (e.g., help them get out of the country where they are stranded, pay for medical bills, etc.).

You can use Google for image search recognition; however, Google uses matching pixel dimensions, not only facial recognition. It’s best to right-click and save an image of the online contact’s image. Then import that image into Google’s image search page by using the camera icon in the search box. Often searching an image will reveal that an online romance contact is a scam.

Online romance is very likely a scam …

if an online love interest asks you for money

if an online love interest immediately asks you to leave the dating website where you met, and communicate in the future by email

if an online contact claims love in a heartbeat

if an online contact claims to be from the U.S., but is traveling or working overseas

if an online contact plans to visit, but is prevented by a traumatic event or a business deal gone bad

Millions of Americans use dating sites, social networking sites, and chat rooms to meet people, and many forge successful relationships. However romance scammers also use these sites to meet potential victims. They create fake profiles to build online relationships, and eventually convince people to send money in the name of love. Some even make wedding plans before disappearing with the money.

An online love interest who asks for money is almost certainly a scam artist.

Don’t wire money to cover:

travel

medical emergencies

hotel bills

hospital bills for a child or other relative

visas or other official documents

losses from a temporary financial setback, including a mugging or robbery or business loss

The FTC also warns people not to give an unknown online romance contact a favor by making an online purchase or by forwarding a package to another country. Often, one request leads to another, and then delays and disappointments will follow. In the end, the money will be gone along with the person you thought you knew, according to the FTC.

Also beware of online contacts that are strangers that activate Friend Requests on Facebook, or that join Facebook groups. Many scammers attempt to join Facebook groups in an attempt to research friends and communications of potential victims. Offenders can develop a profile of people to help them identify victims that are likely to fall for their scams, then they use personal information to help deceive the victims into action that causes money transfers.




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