The Villages Voice - February 2020

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Romance Scams Will Cost You !

by Seniors -v- Crime

ROMANCE SCAMS WILL COST YOU

Valentine’s Day is upon us. Love is in the air. You may think you spend a lot on flowers or chocolate, but losing money in a romance scam would cost you even more. And, according to a new FTC Data Spotlight, reports of romance scams are on the rise. What do we mean by romance scams? According to Lisa Weintraub Schifferle, an Attorney with the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Division of Consumer & Business Education, we’re not talking about the person you thought was “the one” but ended up being a dud. We’re talking about people you meet online, who lavish you with attention - and then ask for money. Usually they want the money by wire transfer or gift card. They might claim they need it for a medical emergency or to come visit you. Then they take your money, but there’s no surgery and no trip. Romance scammers are hard at work wooing people on dating apps and social media. They may lift photos to create an attractive profile or even steal the identity of a real person. Just like with real romances, it may take them some time to gain your trust, but the scammer’s payoff can be big. Last year, people reported a median loss of $2,600 from romance scams. How can you avoid romance scams?
  • Never send money or gifts to a sweetheart you haven’t met in person.
  • Take it slowly. Ask questions and look for inconsistent answers.
  • Check the person’s photo using your search engine’s “search by image” feature. If the same picture shows up with a different name, that’s a red flag.
  • Talk to someone about this new love interest. And pay attention if your friends or family are concerned.
If you suspect a romance scam, cut off contact right away. Then, report the scam to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint. Notify the dating site where you met the scammer, too. Millions of Americans use dating sites, social networking sites, and chat rooms to meet people. And many forge successful relationships. But scammers also use these sites to meet potential victims. They create fake profiles to build online relationships, and eventually convince people to send money in the name of love. Some even make wedding plans before disappearing with the money. An online love interest who asks for money is almost certainly a scam artist. How to Recognize a Scam Artist: The relationship may not be what you think, especially if your heart throb:
  • Wants to leave the dating site immediately and use personal email or IM.
  • Claims love in a heartbeat.
  • Claims to be from the U.S., but is traveling or working overseas.
  • Planned to visit, but is prevented by a traumatic event or a business deal gone sour.
  • Scammers also like to say they’re out of the country for business or military service.
What You Can Do About It: You may lose your heart, but you don’t have to lose your shirt, too. Don’t wire money to cover:
  • Travel
  • Medical emergencies
  • Hotel bills
  • Hospital bills for a child or other relative
  • Visas or other official documents
  • Losses from a temporary financial setback
  • To tide someone over after a mugging or robbery.
  • Don’t do anyone a favor by making an online purchase or forwarding a package to another country.
In the end, the money will be gone along with the person you thought you knew. If you need assistance with understanding any aspects of romance scams, contact the nearest Seniors Vs. Crime office in The Villages for advice or assistance. There is never a charge for their services. Seniors Vs. Crime can be reached at:
  • The Fruitland Park Police Department Annex in the Moyer Recreation Center in The Villages – (352) 674-1882
  • The Marion County Sheriff's Office in The Villages – (352) 753-7775
  • The Sumter County Sheriff's Office in The Villages – (352) 689-4600, Extension 4606
  • The Wildwood Police Department Annex at Brownwood in The Villages – (352) 753-0727
Seniors Vs. Crime does have a Speakers Bureau that will gladly come to your club, church or group to speak about scams. To schedule a presentation, contact any of the offices above. Volunteers at all four offices are ready, willing and able to assist you. To keep up with the latest scams, LIKE ‘Seniors vs. Crime Region 4’ on Face Book. Hablamos Español. Por favor pregunte por Yolanda. Martes a Viernes: 10:00 a.m. a 2:00 p.m., (352) 689 4606.