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Ohioans losing money to sweetheart scams

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 24, 2013 at 11:34 AM

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is warning Ohioans about the high cost of sweetheart scams, where a con artist develops a relationship with a victim, usually online, before asking the victim to send money.

Sweetest Day was last Saturday. Since October 2011, the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section has received about 70 complaints involving these scams. The average reported loss is more than $14,000, and the highest reported loss is $210,000.

“This scam can be very costly both emotionally and financially,” DeWine said. “Con artists can spend months developing relationships with their victims, but eventually they’ll make up some excuse why they need money. In these situations, if someone you’ve never met in person asks you to send money, it’s probably a scam.”

In a typical sweetheart scam, the con artist meets the victim online through a dating website or social networking site, communicating through email, instant message, or phone.

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.

DeWine offers consumers the following tips to protect themselves:

    * 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.

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