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Protect Yourself From Sweetheart Scams and Other Types of Online Fraud

Valentine's Day is right around the corner, and love is in the air! Unfortunately, so are scams. Each year, thousands of people fall victim to “sweetheart scams," when scammers use fake social media and online dating profiles to take advantage of people looking for love and connection. These scammers are experts at sparking relationships quickly and convincing their victims to hand over their financial and personal information. In 2020 alone, reported losses from romance fraud reached a record $304 million. That's about a 50% increase from 2019!

Protect your heart — and your finances — with these tips for avoiding romance scams (and other types of online fraud):

  1. Take it slow. Don't let someone rush you into a close relationship. Ask plenty of questions and get to know them first!
  2. Do your research. It's easy for scammers to create phony social media accounts and dating profiles using photos they find online. Try a reverse-image search to find out if their photos are being used elsewhere under a different name.
  3. Never transfer funds, wire money, buy gift cards or send presents to someone you haven't met in person — for any reason. Scammers will often invent dramatic situations to convince their “love interests" into parting with their hard-earned money. Examples include paying for plane tickets or travel fees, surgery or medical bills or other emergencies. Don't fall for it!
  4. Safeguard your personal or financial information. Details such as your address, birth date, account login information and Social Security number can be used to steal your identity or commit other crimes. Always keep this information to yourself.
  5. Don't click on suspicious links. This is a fraud prevention tip to remember every time you're online. Scammers will send emails designed to download malicious software onto your device or steal your personal information. It's a good idea to hover over a link before clicking it to verify where it's really taking you.
  6. Share new relationships with those you trust. Romance scammers often get away with their schemes by convincing their victims to isolate themselves from their family and friends. If someone is trying to keep your relationship a secret, that's a red flag.
  7. Stay safe when meeting online connections in person. Plan to meet in a public place and let someone know where you will be.

What to do if you think you may be a “sweetheart scam" victim

If you believe you're a victim of a sweetheart scam or any other type of online fraud, stop communicating with the scammer immediately. If you sent money to a scammer, report the incident to your financial institution right away. Then, inform your local law enforcement agency and file reports with the FTC and the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Stay Fraud Smar​​t with WPCU!

Wright-Patt Credit Union (WPCU) is here to help you stay up-to-date on the latest scams and protect against fraud. For more helpful fraud prevention tips, tools and resources, check out our Fraud Prevention page.