By: Jimmy Watt
Public Information Officer
(Walhalla, SC)————————————-Even though the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office has not filed any case reports regarding what has been called “Sweetheart Scams,” the Sheriff’s Office, in our continuing effort to educate citizens on various scams, is warning citizens not to fall victim to this scheme that preys on the emotions of people.
“In the dozen or more press releases we have issued regarding various kinds of scams, we have not issued a release of this sort,” says Oconee County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Jimmy Watt. “All scams, by nature, prey on the emotions of people either by fear or some type of intimidation. However, this kind of scam preys on people’s emotions in a different way through the emotions of love and the promise of a relationship.”
According to information provided by the FBI in February of 2012, the average financial loss from a “sweetheart scam” is between $15,000 and $20,000.
P.I.O. Watt received word from an individual recently of a “sweetheart scam” via a Facebook e-mail in which a couple of individuals received a friend request on Facebook from distinguished looking gentlemen who reportedly made it appear that they work outside of the United States. Each person received this request from separate individuals. Fortunately, no money was lost.
According to this type of scam, the individuals put a considerable amount of time in praying on the feelings of the persons they are pursuing and may make indications that they are falling in the love with the person they are pursuing in a short amount of time.
Those who are preyed upon are perhaps those who have lost a spouse or someone close to them or someone who may be looking for a friend. As time goes along, the individuals will begin to ask for money, such as obtaining funds to for travel expenses or medical emergencies, for example, and may make continued requests for more money in the future. Sometimes, that involves the fact that the person says that they cannot travel to meet the person they are pursuing unless the person sends them money and then cancels the trip due to some unforeseen circumstance.
The Sheriff’s Office is offering these tips so you can avoid being a victim of this scam:
• Never provide personal information or data to anyone you don’t know and that includes any type of financial account information, such as account numbers or card numbers.
• You may want to consider disabling your location setting on any mobile apps you have or not posting places you have been on your social media sites.
• Use the internet and search engines to verify photos or the identities of individuals to see if it backs up what they look like or what they are saying about themselves. Also, be aware of photo’s that appear to look too professional.
• You can copy and paste e-mail address and/or phone numbers and do a Google search to see if those items have ever been used in any type of scams.
• Be aware of those who suddenly leave social media sites immediately and desire to communicate via e-mail or instant messaging and makes excuses about not being able to speak by phone.
• Check for spelling and grammar errors in any correspondence you receive.
• Only accept requests to follow or friend you on social media from individuals you may know or who have a large number of mutual friends or followers.
• Legitimate business or individuals will not ask for payment or request money via a prepaid card. This could be a red flag to indicate that someone is trying to scam you. Also be wary of those who ask you to wire money or cash a check or obtain a money order and then send it via a third party.
If you have been contacted by someone online in the above manner, go to the following website: www.ic3.gov and click on the link to file a complaint with the federal government. Remember, if you lose money or your personal information on identity is compromised, you may want to consider contacting your local law enforcement agency to have a report filed in case federal authorities need that paperwork.