A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

BBB Trends: Let me call you sweetheart anytime of the year — but don’t be heartbroken by a scammer

By Sandra Guile
Better Business Bureau

Online dating and matchmaking apps have made it easier than ever to meet new people and find a date – but that means they’ve made scammers’ work simpler too. Technology like this allows scam artists to create compelling backstories and fully-fledged identities in order to trick victims into helping someone who doesn’t even exist. It’s the basic framework for a sweetheart scam, and it often leads to a broken heart and an empty wallet.

A sweetheart scam starts with a fake profile on an online dating site, created with stolen photos and text from accounts of real people. This fabricated person will often claim to live outside of the country or state that they travel frequently to explain their inability to meet in person.

They may have an important role in the military or a glamorous position at a foreign company — whatever makes it seem as though their absence is normal. Over a short period of time, they’ll build a relationship with their target — exchanging photos, sending romantic messages, and even talking with them for hours every night.

Just when it seems as though the relationship is getting serious enough that a face-to-face meeting is inevitable, the new sweetheart suddenly has a problem. Something unexpected happens and makes it too expensive for them to travel, so they ask for help. However, once their victim sends money, they either continue to create reasons why they need more or they simply stop communicating altogether.

Before it gets to this point, there are a few signs in a person’s profile that indicate that they aren’t who they say they are. If it looks like they have few friends, haven’t been online for very long, or have very poor spelling, it could be a false profile they’ve created using copied text from multiple sources.

If the excuses keep coming and their profile just isn’t adding up, it might be a good time to start questioning the status of this relationship. Be wary when a dating prospect continues to postpone a meeting or doesn’t seem interested in getting together in person. If they say they have a busy travel schedule or claim to be working/living abroad and never have time to meet you, they may not be that into you — they may just be into your money.

Requests for a small amount of money via credit card or wire transfer should be a huge red flag. It may seem like a small price to pay at first, but once they know someone’s on the hook, they’ll continue to ask for more.

A sweetheart scammer is just after your money, not your heart. Report this type of suspicious activity to scamtracker.org.

Sandra Guile is the Public Relations Specialist for BBB promoting BBB’s message of marketplace ethics through public speaking engagements, presentations, media relations, press releases, web content, and other written materials. Your BBB is located at 1 East 4th Street Suite 600 Cincinnati, Ohio 45202 – to reach the office, call (513) 421-3015.

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