Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and with that also comes the potential of many becoming a victim of the “Sweetheart Scam.” According to consumer investigators of the Bucks County Consumer Protection Department, this scam happens like this:
– A fraudster lures someone into a fake romantic relationship, often through online dating websites or social media, hoping to gain their trust and then steal their money.
– The scammer will typically spend weeks or months building the relationship, making promises of love and commitment. Once they have “groomed” the victim, they will play on their “love” and sympathy by asking for money or personal information for reasons such as medical emergencies, travel expenses (so they can meet in person), or investment opportunities. They may also use personal information to commit identity theft.
It’s important to be very cautious when meeting people online. It is never wise to send money or personal information to someone you have never met in person no matter how convincing their promises are.
Here are some tips to help you avoid falling victim to a sweetheart scam:
– Be cautious of anyone who asks for money or personal information soon after starting a relationship. Honest relationships usually take time to develop before one party asks for financial help or personal information.
– Never send money to someone you haven’t met in person. If the person you’re talking to is genuinely interested in you, they will be willing to meet in person and make travel arrangements if necessary, using their own money.
– Be wary of anyone who claims to be living or traveling abroad. Scammers often use this as an excuse to avoid meeting in person.
– Use a reputable dating website or app with security measures to protect its users.
– Research the person you’re talking to by doing a background check or searching their name on social media.
– Be aware and educate yourself about the tactics scammers use so that you are aware of the red flags when you see them.
– Trust your instincts. If something seems too good to be true, or if you feel uncomfortable, it’s best to end the relationship and move on.
Scammers are experts at manipulating their victims and making them feel embarrassed or ashamed. They often use emotional manipulation and pressure tactics to get what they want. If you have fallen victim to a sweetheart scam, it’s important to know that you are not alone. Here are a few steps to take if you or someone you know may have fallen victim to a sweetheart scam:
– Call Bucks County Consumer Protection at 1-800-942-2669 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can safely and confidentially discuss your situation with a consumer investigator who is knowledgeable about and has experience with this type of scam. They will take you through the steps you need to take to repair any financial issues that may have resulted and may refer you to other agencies if necessary or requested.
– Contact the authorities. Report the scam to the police and Federal Trade Commission so they can investigate the crime and help others from falling victim.
– Cut off all contact with this person; block the scammer’s phone number, email address and social media accounts to prevent them from contacting you again.
– Although you may feel embarrassed or ashamed, it’s important to tell a trusted family member or friend. Sharing your experience with loved ones can help you process what happened. Seek help: talk to a therapist or counselor if you are feeling emotional distress. They can help you cope with feelings of betrayal and loss.
– Take steps to protect yourself: change all your passwords and monitor your financial accounts for any fraudulent activity.
It’s also important to remember that these scammers are professionals. It is a job to them. A thief will likely be back if you have fallen for a scam. They attempt to get more from you by using other tried and true tactics, such as the “Grandparent Scam” or the “IRS is calling and you owe taxes” scam. They may do it again and again, using different pseudo names and phone numbers, so remain vigilant.