Iowa officials urge extra caution to stop scams | #datingscams | #lovescams | #datingscams | #love | #relationships | #scams | #pof | | #dating

Double check. Double check. Double check. 

That was the message Quad-Cities residents heard Monday night from the Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen and Iowa Attorney General’s Office Investigator Al Perales on how to spot red flags and avoid being swindled by what are becoming increasingly complicated scams. 

Common scams pull on people’s emotions, Perales said. A scammer might pretend to be a child or grandchild in distress, a romantic interest, a lottery official or a law enforcement officer. Those impersonating law enforcement often try to convince the target that their bank account is associated with criminal activity and they need to “protect” their assets by withdrawing them and turning over the cash to a stranger or risk being arrested. 

“Remember TIP,” said Perales. “Because a scammer will want to introduce a Threat, they’re going want to bring Immediacy, and they’re going to ask for Payment.” 

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Law enforcement agents won’t threaten arrest for refusing to give information or payment over the phone, according to the Iowa Attorney General’s Office. Nor will they ask you to keep your conversation secret.  

According to the Federal Trade Commission, Americans reported losing $8.8 billion to fraud in 2022, up 30% from the previous year. 

In 2023, Iowans lost $42.6 million to fraud, with 19,673 reports made, according to the FTC’s 2023 annual data book. The median amount lost to fraud was $401. 

Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen talks about common scams and how to avoid them Monday, March 4, 2024, at the River Center in Davenport. 

To help educate Iowans and prevent fraud, the Iowa Department of Insurance and Financial Services, the Iowa Attorney General’s Office and AARP Iowa launched an 18-stop tour to educate Iowans about common types of scams in the state and how people can protect themselves.

The “roadshow” stopped in Davenport Monday night at the River Center. 

“We know that prevention of fraud is our best defense because once a fraud has occurred it does create a lot of challenges for us to bring people to justice,” Ommen said. “So that’s why we’re here.” 

Perales told several anonymous stories of Iowans who reported fraud to the Iowa Attorney General’s Office. 

In one case, a scammer sent a Delmar woman an email telling her she ordered an iPhone. She hadn’t, so she called the number listed in the email to cancel the order. She thought she was talking to Amazon. The person on the phone was nice, telling her they would take care of the problem.

Then it changed. They asked whether she was trying to buy a laptop. She said no. They said there might be something wrong with her account, and it may be tied to criminal activity. The person transferred her to someone who was supposedly a DEA agent, who scared her and told her she was in trouble. They asked how much she had in savings, and said in order to “protect” her assets, they needed her to go to her bank, retrieve the $20,000 she had in savings, put it in a box and ship it to California, where it would be “protected by the U.S. Treasury.”

“The next morning she called and she told me the story and she told me she sent it out of Eldridge, Iowa, at the UPS store,” Perales said.

He worked with the UPS store to stop the package and get the woman her money back, he said.

Al Perales, an investigator with the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, told stories about anonymous victims of scams his office has helped in the Quad-Cities on Monday, March 4, 2024, at the River Center in Davenport. 

“I wanted to tell you guys this because it just wasn’t the Amazon scam,” Perales said. “Scammers know how to trick you. This scam started out with the voice of calm, the voice of helping, a voice of comfort, a voice of trying to fix a problem, and it turned around, and turned into a voice that frightened her and worried her.” 

The Iowa Insurance Division also regulates investments in the state, and Ommen told the Monday-night crowd to take care to learn financial advisors’ credentials.

“All financial professionals that do business in our state have to go through testing and licensing,” Ommen said. 

He advised residents to be educated on what they’re investing in and be wary of high-yield promises and unregistered investments. 

He urged Iowans to report any potential investment fraud to the Iowa Insurance Division and any other types of consumer fraud to the Iowa Attorney General’s Office to be able to investigate suspicious actors and protect others.

Scams have increased with ease of access to technology and information scammers can use to manipulate people.  

“That’s the increase we’re seeing is the ease of technology is giving access to consumers — social media and all of that, just the ability to learn about people,” Ommen said. “…Scammers can go in and they can learn pretty good detail about a lot of people, so when they contact the individual, they’re in a really good position to develop a quick relationship.” 

Residents can submit a complaint at:

  • Iowa Attorney General’s Office website or by calling 515-281-5926.
  • Iowa Insurance Division website or by calling 515-654-6600.

Love is in the air this week for Valentines Day and as people take their search for love online, the FBI is warning them to beware of romance scams.  In 2023, 64,000 people reported a romance scam, and losses to fraudulent online suitors hit a staggering $1.14 billion, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The report found the median loss per victim was $2,000, the highest reported median loss when compared to any form of impostor scam.  Over the years, artificial intelligence has evolved and become more accessible to the public, giving criminals new options to cast a wider net and target more victims on social media and dating apps.   Kevin Gosschalk, the founder and CEO of Arkose Labs, a company providing support and technology to stop large-scale automated attacks, told Scripps News that con artists are targeting dating apps, and its becoming more difficult for systems put in place by companies to detect the phony profiles given the more sophisticated technology.  A new trend we’re seeing is they’re using AI-generated technology, which lets them craft automatically very personal, very normal looking messages, and it also has the ability to converse with victims as well, Gosschalk said.  The Arkose Cyber Threat Intelligence Research Unit observed a more than 2,000% increase in attacks on dating sites and applications in January of 2024 compared to the same time last year. Gosschalk adds that these attacks tend to spike during Valentines Day, Christmas, and New Years.  In recent years, the FBI has highlighted the stories of victims who lost their savings to online romance scams. One woman was duped out of $2 million by a suitor she never met, according to the FBI. She told authorities the man said he needed money to finish up a job and promised to give it back within 24-48 hours. She never saw the money again.  Ive lost everything. Its all I had, the woman recounted.  Her story is like many reported year after year to law enforcement. Authorities urge people to file reports of romance scams as soon as possible to the FTC, the Better Business Bureau, or the FBI to help increase the chances of recovering a portion of losses.  Tips to avoid falling victim to a romance scam:  – Never send money, cryptocurrency, gift cards, bank or wire transfers to someone you have not met  – Dont share your bank account with strangers  – Be suspicious of someone who cancels in-person meetings/dates  – Do a reverse image search of the persons profile  – Limit sharing personal information online   – Ask a lot of questions  – Listen to your gut  – Check on loved ones: Experts say scammers will target people who are lonely or grieving.  SEE MORE: How to do Valentine’s Day on a budget without looking cheap


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