Sweetheart Scams, also called Romance Scams, are a type of fraud in which the perpetrator posts a fake online dating profile, builds trust and an emotional bond with a legitimate love-seeker, and eventually coaxes the victim to provide personal and account information or to send funds.
In some instances, the fraudster will create an elaborate story about being a U.S. citizen but currently residing overseas (think military, job travel, humanitarian efforts, etc.). The fraudster will tell his victim that he cannot access his own account and needs to pay foreign taxes to the tune of thousands of dollars to unlock it. Or, he needs funds for travel home. Or, perhaps he needs to send money to his daughter’s caregiver back in the U.S. Or, he’s sick or injured and needs to pay medical bills.
Regardless of the reason, the bottom line is that he needs YOU to perform a financial transaction – or provide him online or mobile access to YOUR account – to get out of the bind he’s in. Rest assured, though – he can prepay you or pay you back (according to him).
The fraudster may use your account to deposit fraudulent checks and/or transfer money. Or, he may send a check to you to deposit. He’ll ask you to send some of the money back to him or elsewhere, typically via wire transfer. (He’s so grateful to you that he’ll include a few hundred dollars extra for you to keep.) In the end, though, the deposited check will be returned as fraudulent, and the victim (who already wired funds out) will be left with the loss.
Stay Smart, Stay Secure!
Christian Financial has practices in place to help detect and prevent wrongdoers from reaching your pocketbook. But if you have an online dating profile, stay smart to stay secure! Watching for red flags like the ones listed here will help you avoid Sweetheart Scammers.
We’ve all heard the sage advice, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” This is especially true in the world of online dating where a pretty face and some smooth talk can cost you. Know who you’re talking to – don’t just take his/her word for it. Ask lots of questions. Research the person’s photo, name, and profile using online searches to see if the material has been used elsewhere.
An individual who quickly asks you to leave the original venue (dating service or social media site) to take the conversation “offline” may be eager to get your personal contact information. Take your time getting to know the person. Suggest to continue talking on the original site a while longer. If they are genuinely interested, they will respect your request. If they persist and eventually move on, you just may have avoided a costly relationship.
If the individual tries to isolate you from family and friends, or asks for inappropriate photos or financial information, be very careful. Remember, what you share online is never really private. An unscrupulous individual could later use it to extort you. Always keep your account information and online banking login information private.
Beware of someone you plan to meet who procrastinates or makes excuses why he or she can’t. If you don’t meet in person in a reasonable period of time, regardless of the reasons, you have good cause to be suspicious.
It’s all (eventually) about the Benjamins. NEVER send money to – or complete financial transactions for – someone you don’t know personally.
We’re Here to Help!
Scammers are out there, but your Credit Union is here to help! If you ever suspect fraud, or have concerns or questions regarding your account, talk to us right away! Pop in to any of our CFCU locations or give us a call to speak with a friendly and knowledgeable branch representative. We look forward to serving you!