Presented By Scioto Valley Dumpsters, LTD
(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance but seeking companionship and love may also involve a scam. Reports from the Federal Trade Commission show romance scams reached a record $304 million in reported losses in 2020, up about 50% from 2019.
“And that’s just the crimes reported; the real numbers could be far greater as many victims are oftentimes reluctant to report the fraud,” said Commerce Director Sherry Maxfield. “These professional scammers know how to find victims, earn their trust and then manipulate them into giving them money. Knowing how to protect yourself is the first step to prevent this fraud.”
How the Scam Works
Potential victims are found by the scammer through online dating apps and social media platforms. Oftentimes scammers identify themselves as a wealthy overseas business person or a military member stationed in a foreign country. Usually the scammer and victim never meet in person but communicate via text messages, emails and phone calls. As the relationship evolves, the scammer will reel their victim in with phony promises to make the victim feel special. After trust is established, the scammer spins a story about an urgent situation where money is needed quickly or they have a “can’t miss” investment opportunity. The scammer may also ask for personal information to steal the victim’s identity or assets.
Tips to Protect Yourself
Avoid being a victim by following these simple rules:
- Be careful posting information about yourself on social media or dating sites.
- Scammers will steal online photos and profiles of others and use as their own. You can use Google’s image search to see if the photo has been copied from other’s personal online accounts.
- Never give out your personal information, especially if you haven’t met in person.
- Never wire money to anyone you haven’t met in person. Be on guard if told a wire transfer is the only way to provide funds and especially if the request is urgent. Scammers know that once the money is sent, there’s usually no way to get it back.
- If scammed, contact the wire transfer company or the bank immediately, tell them the transfer was fraudulent and ask them to reverse the transfer to get your money back.
- Scammers will also approach their victim to put money into an investment, or in their alleged business or product.
- Check before you invest. Be sure the person trying to sell you an investment is properly licensed and the investment being sold is registered with either state or federal authorities.
Resources to Use if You Suspect Fraud
- MoneyGram: 1-800-MONEYGRAM (1-800-666-3947)
- Western Union: 1-800-325-6000
Banks, Credit Unions
- Contact the financial institution’s fraud department.
- If the financial institution is Ohio-charted and unresponsive, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs at 1-866-278-0003 or submit a report online.
- Call the Division of Securities’ Investor Protection Hotline at 877-683-7841 for guidance on any investment opportunity, or to find out if the person is licensed to sell investment products in Ohio. You can also submit an online complaint if you suspect you’ve been scammed.
- Check the background of someone who claims to be a stockbroker, investment adviser or financial planner using FINRA’s BrokerCheck, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Action Lookup (SALI) or Investment Advisor Public Disclosure websites.