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Tips to avoid romance scams

According to the Federal Trade Commission, people reported losing $143 million to romance scams in 2018.

ASHEBORO, N.C. — Millions of people turn to online dating or social networking sites for love. But, instead of finding romance, some people find a scammer trying to trick them into sending money. 

According to the Federal Trade Commission, people reported losing $143 million to romance scams in 2018. That's a higher total than for any other type of scam reported to the FTC. The median reported loss was $2,600, and, for people over 70, it was $10,000.

For that reason, the Asheboro Police Department will be holding an informational session about how to spot and avoid sweetheart scams. Officer Guadalupe Gonzales of the Asheboro Police Department will share some of the techniques that scammers use to ensnare the lovelorn as they lavish the target with attention but began sharing sad stories and requesting increasingly large amounts of money. The event will be held on Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Asheboro Public Library located at 201 Worth Street. The talk is free and the public is invited.

The FTC offers the following tips to avoid falling victim to romance scams: 

The lies romance scammers tell:

  • Romance scammers will often say they're living or traveling outside of the United States. 
  • The FTC has received reports of scammers who say they are working on an oil rig, in the military, or a doctor with an international organization.

The ways romance scammers ask for money: The FTC has received reports of romance scammers asking their targets for money to:

  • pay for a plane ticket or other travel expenses
  • pay for surgery or other medical expenses
  • pay customs fees to retrieve something
  • pay off gambling debts
  • pay for a visa or other official travel documents

Scammers ask people to pay:

  • by wiring money
  • with reload cards like MoneyPak or gift cards from vendors like Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, or Steam

How to avoid losing money to a romance scammer: 

Never send money or gifts to a sweetheart you haven't met in person. If you suspect a romance scam:

  • Stop communicating with the person immediately.
  • Talk to someone you trust, and pay attention if your friends or family say they're concerned about your new love interest.
  • Do a search for the type of job the person has to see if other people have heard similar stories. For example, you could do a search for "oil rig scammer" or "US Army scammer." You can also browse the comments on our blog posts about romance scams to hear other people's stories:
  • Faking it – scammers' tricks to steal your heart and money
  • Has an online love interest asked you for money?
  • Romance scams will cost you
  • Do a reverse image search of the person' profile picture to see if it's associated with another name or with details that don't match up – those are signs of a scam.
  • If you think it's a scam, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint. Notify the website or app where you met the scammer, too.
  • If you paid a romance scammer with a gift card, contact the company that issued the card right away. Tell them you paid a scammer with the gift card and ask if they can refund your money.

If You Need Help: 

  • Although many victims of online dating and sweetheart scams are hesitant to come forward, we strongly encourage people to report these scams. 
  • If you experience an online dating scam or sweetheart scam, contact the FTC or call toll free within North Carolina at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.