Q: I think I’ve been fooled by one of those romance scammers. I’m in the military and stationed at a base here in the Central Valley. I met someone online that I really hit it off with, and we’d email and message one another almost every day. After well over a year of exchanging texts and emails, they messaged me last week saying that they were in a medical emergency, and needed to borrow some money from me. I didn’t even hesitate to wire a rather large sum. I never heard from them again. I tried calling, but the number was disconnected. I was honestly heartbroken, realizing my mistake too late. I really don’t know what to do, can you help me?
A: Romance scams have become a huge problem, and the average number of victims continues to grow each year. First and foremost, I’d recommend you contact your bank if you haven’t already. It’s most likely too late to get your money back, especially since you had done it via wire transfer, though it still can’t hurt to try. You should definitely let the proper authorities know what happened, so that they can warn others who might be in the same type of situation. Go to militaryconsumer.gov/report-scam to make an official report. You should also make reports to the Federal Trade Commission (ftc.gov) and BBB Scam Tracker (bbb.org/scamtracker) to spread further awareness of the situation. For future reference, look for ways to avoid romance scams at bbb.org/romancescam.
Better Business Bureau warns people to watch out for the following:
▪ Never send money or personal information that can be used for identity theft to someone you’ve never met in person.
▪ Never give someone your credit card information to book a ticket to visit you.
▪ Cut off contact if someone starts asking you for information like credit card, bank, or government ID numbers.
▪ Ask specific questions about details given in a profile. A scammer may stumble over remembering details or making a story fit.
▪ Do your research. Many scammers steal photos from the web to use in their profiles. You can do a reverse image lookup using a website like tineye.com or images.google.com to see if the photos on a profile are stolen from somewhere else. You can also search online for a profile name, email or phone number to see what adds up and what doesn’t.
As always, check bbb.org for more information on how to identify the latest scams, and how to avoid them.