KENT, Ohio — With Valentine’s Day next week, love is a bit of a tough subject for one Kent woman, who detailed to News 5 how she lost thousands from a romance scammer.
News 5 agreed not to share her name or age of the woman, but identified her as more than 60 years old and living near downtown Kent.
She told News 5 that she thought she was speaking with a soldier serving overseas in Iraq when the conversation first started in 2022.
“I met him through Facebook and we started talking,” she said. “After he got there, he didn’t have any access to his money. He needed money and then there were kids there and they needed food. So, I started sending gift cards.”
In that woman’s case, she ended up talking to her scammer for a year before she realized what was really happening.
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“I gave him all my information, which was very stupid,” she said. “Then he started moving the money around, he took my social security. I didn’t realize he was buying cryptocurrency with it, but he did.”
Since then, she said it has been a battle trying to get back any of the money and, more importantly, her trust and self-confidence. That’s why she’s sharing what happened so others think twice before giving anyone money online before meeting in person.
“Anybody can say that they love you,” she said. “But if they don’t prove it and you’re the one doing all the giving and they’re the one doing all the taking, that’s not love. That’s greed.”
According to the FTC, in 2022, nearly 70,000 people reported they were the victim of romance scams, losing a total of $1.4 billion. The median reported loss was $4,400.
As Ericka Dilworth at the Better Business Bureau points out, new methods for the same old tricks continue to pop up on what’s becoming an issue for years.
“It’s not getting any better,” she said. “The older population seems to be taken advantage of a little bit more, but I think it’s across the board. It’s just in different ways.”
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However, she told News 5 that the red flag just about always waves in the same direction: when they ask for money before ever meeting in person.
“Scammers know what questions to ask you and how to get you what they want you to do which is provide money or personal information,” she said. “If they’re asking you for gift cards, if they’re asking you to send money through a banking app, if they’re asking you to write a check, you have to put the brakes on and you have to do some homework.”
The BBB said there are several ways you can protect yourself:
- If you are meeting online, analyze dating profiles and look for repeated phrases, misspellings or misuse of words.
- Check the photograph attached to the profile, or that is sent to you. Do an internet search, if you see the same picture appear with other names and places, be suspicious.
- Don’t send money to someone you meet online.
- Be suspicious of requests for money via wire transfer, money order, prepaid money cards, or gift cards
Something else to keep in mind: These scammers will do anything to get your money, so they often change their story to ensure you’re their perfect match.
This includes sharing your interests or wanting to settle down. But when you ask to meet, they will never be available.
The FTC explained that they even use the same lines.