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The scammer often will make excuses for why he or she can’t talk on the phone, or will make – and then cancel – plans to meet you.The scammer then will claim there has been an emergency and he or she needs money.
Keep your guard up Rather than jumping right into an online relationship, “Be mysterious,” Nofziger advises. Don’t give out everything right away.” If you have any suspicions, search online to check if what he or she has told you jibes with what is publicly available online.FBI: File a complaint at Internet Crime Complaint Center. If you’ve wired money to a scammer: Both Western Union and Money Gram have websites with information on filing complaints.Western Union agreed in January 2016 to a $586 million settlement with the FTC over allegations of looking the other way and allowing fraud and money laundering.Western Union received at least 44,500 complaints about online dating and romance scams, with losses totaling at least $41 million, between 20, the FTC’s Todd Kossow says.Amy Nofziger, regional director of the AARP Foundation, explained how a romance scam works: The scammer will often say he or she is from the United States, but is traveling or working overseas, and will quickly profess his or her love for you.They work around the clock, and will keep you up all night communicating, she says. The romance scammers often will steal a military member’s photo from social media sites or press releases, Grey says, and may even use the military member’s name in their online profiles.
“They get the victim in a fog so she’s no longer thinking clearly.” It’s not unusual for scammers to claim they’re in the military. Even senior Department of Defense leaders have had their identities stolen by these fraudsters.
Of 288,000 online scams, with losses totaling almost $1.1 billion, romance scams accounted for 20 percent of all losses and only 4 percent of all victims. “They’re all smoke and mirrors,” Barb Sluppick, owner of Romance Scams.org, says of the scammers.
“They slowly become part of the victim’s dreams.” Sluppick’s organization provides support and education to those who lose their hearts – and often a chunk of their finances – to scammers.
Victims include everyone from doctors and lawyers to CEOs and cops, Sluppick says.
In many cases, they’re lonely after a divorce, the death of a spouse, or their kids are grown and have left home.
If you’ve fallen victim to a romance scammer, here are some ways to start regaining control of your financial life.