RALEIGH, N.C. – North Carolina officials are warning consumers about “sweetheart scams” that are tricking people in the online dating community out of money.
More than $2 million was lost from 25 victims last year due to online dating con artists using the internet, according to state Attorney General Roy Cooper. That figure rose from 2011, when 16 victims lost $700,000 while searching for love online.
“These days many people look for companionship online, and con artists know it,” Cooper said. “Sweetheart scammers are using websites to meet, woo and romance their victims out of their money.”
The fraud has moved to popular sites like match.com, seniorpeoplemeet.com, Facebook and christianmingle.com, Cooper says. Con artists express interest in the man or woman and establish a relationship before asking the victim to wire him or her money due to an emergency.
Senior citizens are especially targeted, Cooper warned. Of the 25 consumers who filed complaints, 10 were senior citizens last year.
A Lexington woman lost $1 million after a fake online relationship that began on Facebook. The man told her he was working in Africa and he conned her into sending money overseas to cover expenses before he could return to North Carolina to see and marry her.
“If someone you meet online starts asking you for money, even a small amount, that’s a good sign you’re dealing with a scammer,” Cooper. “Contact my office if you or a loved one may be caught up in a sweetheart scam.”
Cooper offered this tips to avoid becoming a victim:
- Remember, people aren’t always who they claim to be online.
- Never send or wire money to a stranger you meet online. Once the money has been wired, it is highly unlikely you will ever get it back.
- Never give out your personal information to someone you meet online, no matter what the circumstance or why they say they need it.