MADISON – Roses are red, violets are blue, your online love interest may be scamming you.
If you intend to look online for your valentine, be mindful that scammers are also on those sites looking for you and your pocketbook. The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection asks Wisconsin residents to keep an eye out for signs that they are being led into a “sweetheart scam.”
“Women over the age of 40 who are divorced, widowed or disabled are the most common targets, but every age and demographic is at risk,” said Sandy Chalmers, Division Administrator of Trade and Consumer Protection. “The crooks behind these scams usually operate from overseas and ask the victim to wire money.”
The FBI recently reported an extortion scam involving online dating sites. Victims met someone on a dating site and were asked to move the conversation to a particular social networking site where the talk often turned intimate. Victims were later sent a link to a website where those conversations were posted along with photos, their phone numbers and claims that they were “cheaters.” In order to have that information removed, victims were told they could make a $99 payment—but there is no indication that the other side of the bargain was upheld.
It is possible that you are being targeted for a sweetheart scam if your online love interest:
- Claims to be from the United States but is currently “travelling,” “deployed with the military,” or “working overseas”
- Professes love for you almost instantly
- Asks you to leave the dating site and communicate by personal email or instant messages
- Requests that you send personal information including social security, bank account or credit card numbers
- Asks you to cash checks for him/her
- Makes excuses for not meeting in person, such as last-minute financial, medical or family emergencies
- Asks you to send money by wire transfer to pay for airfare, visas or government documents or to help a family member in distress. Never wire money to someone you do not know or have not met in person. Wiring money is like sending cash – once it is gone, you cannot get it back.
For additional information or to file a complaint, visit the Consumer Protection Bureau atdatcp.wisconsin.gov, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Consumer Protection Hotline toll-free at 1-800-422-7128.