Don’t fall for it: Warning about romance scams

COLUMBUS — Beware of online romance scams. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is warning people about certain scams that have been reported by several Ohioans.

According to a press release, in the scam, con artists often meet their victims on social media or dating websites.

The attorney general’s office says the con artists create phony profiles and communicate with their victims either by text or over the phone — sometimes for months or years.

They may also send forged photos or documents to prove who they are.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office says the con artists will eventually ask for money and may claim to be:

  • A doctor working overseas who is robbed and needs money for a new passport.
  • An engineer building a bridge in India who is robbed and needs money to come home.
  • A U.S. military member stationed overseas who needs money to buy a plane ticket.
  • A jeweler traveling in Africa detained after trying to board a plane with a diamond.

Here’s how it works: The con artist will usually tell the person to send money using a wire-transfer service, money order, prepaid card, gift card, or other hard-to-trace payment method. The attorney general says once the money is sent, it is nearly impossible to recover.

About 40 Ohioans reported losing money to these types of sweetheart scams in 2017, with the average amount lost close to $40,000.

Here are tips from the attorney general’s office to avoid sweetheart scams:

  • Research someone you meet online. Don’t rely solely on what the person tells you. Search the person’s name and other details the person provides. Conduct an image search of a person’s profile picture. See if it has been used somewhere else. Don’t assume a person is trustworthy just because you met on a legitimate dating website.
  • Be wary of relationships that develop very quickly. Be cautious when someone claims to love you soon after you meet online and before you have met in person. As part of the scam, some con artists send gifts or make claims about destiny or fate in order to make their feelings seem legitimate. To help protect yourself, talk to friends and family about any online relationships, even if the other person asks you to keep the relationship a secret.
  • Don’t send money to someone you’ve only met online, even if you have developed a relationship with the individual. Be especially skeptical of requests for money sent via wire transfer, money order, prepaid money cards, cash, or gift cards. These are preferred payment methods for scammers.

“Sometimes online dating works out very well, but unfortunately, there are some con artists who pretend to be someone they’re not,” Attorney General DeWine said. “They string people along, and at some point, they start asking for money.”

If you suspect a scam or an unfair business practice, you’re asked to contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515.