Don’t Fall for Fake Online Romance This Valentine’s Day

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohioans who are pierced by Cupid’s arrow this Valentine’s Day should make sure they’re not actually being struck by fraud, Attorney General Dave Yost warns.

“A fake online romance can break your heart and the bank,” Yost said. “Knowing how to spot the red flags can keep bad love from getting worse.”

Yost’s Consumer Protection Section received 57 complaints of possible romance scams in 2019. Reported losses totaled almost $4 million.

The scammers often say they live overseas and need money because of a medical emergency or to leave their country. In many cases, they pretend to be in the military.

A Clinton County woman said she lost $475,000 to someone she met on a dating website who claimed to be in Egypt. The victim sent money by credit card, cash and gift cards, believing the person needed help paying to ship goods internationally.

Another complaint from a Richland County woman describes how someone on a dating website scammed her into sending $300,000 by wire transfer, supposedly so the person could pay for hotels and attorneys.

Yost encourages Ohioans to follow these online dating tips:

  • Research people you meet online and do not rely solely on what they tell you. Conduct internet searches and check with independent sources to verify their claims.
  • Be cautious of people who claim it was destiny or fate that brought you together or who claim to love you shortly after you meet.
  • Talk to friends and family members about any online relationships, even if the other person asks you to keep the relationship a secret. 
  • Don’t send money to someone you’ve only met online, even if you have developed a relationship. 
  • Be skeptical of requests asking you to send money via wire transfer, money order, prepaid money cards or gift cards. These are preferred payment methods of scammers.

Consumers who suspect an unfair or deceptive sales practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515.