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7 warning signs your online love may be a scam

Posted at 4:36 AM, Feb 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-14 09:22:03-05

Each season has its own scam -- spring has IRS scams, winter has charity scams...

Now, Valentine's Day has a scam created to take advantage of those looking for a sweetheart.

"A lot of people are online and they're clicking...they're trying to find a partner," said Arizona Attorney Mark Brnovich. "The crooks know that, as well."

Brnovich wants to warn Valley residents about being open to love, while keeping their wallets guarded. He used examples like Dylan Pierce, who was sentenced back in 2017 to nearly 16 years in prison for scamming women over the internet.

"Women literally turned over tens of thousands of dollars to him," Brnovich described. "And what he was doing was using that money to support his lavish lifestyle."

Online profiles are helping crooks to keep their con alive. While it is a great portal for relationships, it also opens the door for scammers.

"We've also seen other scams where someone will meet someone online and then they'll be asked to wire money," Brnovich explained. "Someone will say that, 'Oh, I'm going to come visit you. Can you please wire me the money?' Then, they'll say they had some medical emergency or maybe got caught up - arrested for something falsely, so 'I need the money. If I get the money, I can come visit you.'"

Brnovich said the online profile you create is often the perfect tool for a crook.

"A lot of times people post...that they're lonely or they're looking for somebody or their divorced or widowed," Brnovich said. "So...the crooks have a profile of someone that they think they can take advantage of"

It became such a problem, that Brnovich's office decided to take action back in May of last year.

"When we start seeing lots of cash going to a place...there's a red flag that goes off," Brnovich said.

While on the hunt for drug or human traffickers, the office noticed what appeared to be a large amount of money going to Africa. They realized this was connected to a scheme where these crooks create a relationship with a victim to get money.

"We were able to get a warrant to stop and block that money from going through and we literally returned about $14,000 to potential victims here in Arizona."

Most of these people are 65 years and older. They believe they had made a love connection and were attempting to send their love money.

Some thought something was off about the situation, but were unsure.

Others still believed their relationship was real.

"If someone you've never met, never seen, a romance goes very, very quickly online - be very, very careful," Brnovich warned.

He said these scams happen more often than you may think. But, many victims are too embarrassed that they were tricked to come forward.

"If you've ever been ripped off or should never be embarrassed. You should never be ashamed," Brnovich said. "You're a victim."

The Attorney General's Office has tips on their website to tell if you or someone you know is involved in a romance scam.

You should never send money to someone you do not know personally, particularly if they are overseas. According to the U.S. Embassy in Ghana, you are likely a victim of a scam if any of the following indicators sounds familiar:

  • You met a friend/fiancé online.
  • You’ve never met face to face.
  • Your correspondent professed love at warp speed.
  • Your friend/fiancé is plagued with medical or other life problems requiring loans from you.
  • You are promised repayment upon the inheritance of gold or gems.
  • You’ve sent large sums of money for visas or plane tickets, but the person cannot seem to make it out of their home country.When your friend does try to leave the country, he/she gets into a car accident or is detained by immigration officials demanding payment, bribes, or proof of a certain amount of cash on hand for travel.
  • When your friend does try to leave the country, he/she gets into a car accident or is detained by immigration officials demanding payment, bribes, or proof of a certain amount of cash on hand for travel.

To report a scam, click here.