One of the more popular methods used by scammers to bilk money out of unsuspecting victims is the so-called Sweetheart Scam. What makes this type of fraud especially insidious is that the victims are usually older widows or widowers, at their most vulnerable following the loss of their life partner.
Worse, the swindlers are almost never caught because most of
these scams originate from a foreign country. The only real defense you have is
to take precautions if you find yourself in a virtual or long-distance
relationship with someone.
How the Sweetheart Scam Works
Most sweetheart scammers follow the same formula. They
connect with a victim online, often through dating sites, or even by phone.
They know how to tug at the heart of a widow or widower to develop a close,
intimate relationship from afar. The relationship deepens and plans are made to
However, at some point, the scammer contacts the victim with
news of a tragedy, or some emergency requiring financial assistance. Some
scammers will start off small, requesting $100 for a bus ride home. The next
request will be bigger, maybe $30,000 for a medical emergency, always with the
promise to repay the victim. Eventually, the scammer disappears, deleting their
email address and phone numbers.
Preventing Sweetheart Scams
If you become involved in a virtual or long-distance
relationship, take every precaution before moving forward.
Take the relationship slow and ask many
questions along the way.
Track down their digital footprint online. Be
suspicious if there is none. Be suspicious anyway because scammers know how to
set up fake identities.
Ask yourself why this person would be interested
in you. Does it make sense?
Be very suspicious if the person professes
feelings of love.
Be suspicious if the person claims to be a U.S.
citizen but is unable to meet you in person because they travel frequently or work
Be extremely cautious if they constantly come up
with reasons for not being able to meet you in person.
Above all else, never, ever send money to
someone you haven’t met in person.