FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) – As Valentine’s Day approaches, the Attorney General’s office wants Kentuckians to be wary of online dating scams that have already caused four victims in Campbell, Jefferson, and Wayne counties to lose money.
Victims of those scams reported losses of nearly $300,000 this year. In each case, a “sweetheart scammer” used legitimate online dating websites to lure victims into a fake online relationship. The scammer then took advantage of the victim’s emotions by duping them into sending thousands of dollars to supposedly help them get out of various types of legal or financial trouble.
Officials say all of the Kentucky victims were over the age of 60, and these scammers often target senior citizens who might be lonely and are more likely to have money saved up.
“They are more vulnerable especially if they’re widowed, if they have that sadness. They’re grieving their loved one and then someone new and fresh pays attention and says nice things to them, then it starts this emotional attachment,” said Lori Farris with the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office Of Senior Protection.
Attorney General Beshear said one victim lost more than $12,000 in a sweetheart scam, and even purchased a wedding dress for a supposed February 2019 wedding date.
The FBI says that sweetheart scams cost victims in the United States more than $211 million in losses, which makes it the second-largest online crime in terms of money taken from victims.
The largest online crime where victims lose the most money involves fake business phishing scams.
Red Flags of Sweetheart Scammer
- Asks you to leave the official dating or social media site and communicate directly via text, email or online chats.
- Falls in love or befriends quickly.
- Says they are not able to meet in person.
- Claims to have an emergency and needs money to get out of legal or financial trouble.
- Requests money sent using untraceable methods of payment.
- Claims they will pay you back when you meet.
Sweetheart scammers also pretend to be someone they are not by stealing others photos to use on their dating profiles. Conducting a Google image search is one way Kentuckians may be able to detect a scammer who is using another person’s photo.
Officials with the AG’s office say it’s crucial that you give them a call if you think you’re being scammed or have been scammed. Beshear says they are sometimes able to track down the scammers and fight to get your money back. It also helps them to alert the public to potential scams.
Beshear recommends people sign up for scam alerts in order to better protect themselves and friends: click here.