Sweetheart Imposters Turn Up the Heat on SWFL Residents

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office Economic Crimes Unit is warning residents - particularly seniors - to guard their hearts and their wallets from scammers posing as online love interests, in what is commonly known as the “romance scam”. Over the last several weeks, the fraud line has received an increase in calls from concerned family members reporting con-artists posing as the perfect partner in order to lure unsuspecting victims into fraudulent relationships through the use of popular social media and internet dating sites.

Despite the expertise in deception and draining bank accounts these cybercriminals possess, the tips below can help detect whether or not that new sweetheart is a dream or a nightmare: 

 *If you receive a “friend” request from someone you do not know and they quickly want to develop a relationship, be suspicious. Too much, too fast can lead to disaster.

 *If this new “person” quickly urges you to move your conversations off of Facebook or an online dating service and onto other messaging platforms, be suspicious. Not only does this help them organize their conversations with multiple victims, it also allows them to take down their phony online profile before you discover it.

 *Scammers generally claim to be from the United States but just happen to be overseas for business or family matters, are deployed in the military, working in “mining” fields or the “construction” industry, or on an oil rig.  

 *Ironically, you have many things in common with your new “friend”, such as the loss of a spouse, child, or parent. In fact, it’s nearly unbelievable how your lives seem to be so relatable. This alone should raise your suspicions.

 *Cybercriminals are patient. As your fairytale romance progresses and you are now emotionally involved, it will be time for them to pounce. You will be asked for money to help pay for travel costs so the two of you can meet, help pay a medical bill or assist with a financial difficulty.

The romance scam is a billion-dollar internet scheme that entraps victims of all ages and can cause long-term effects both financially and emotionally. If you think you’ve been or are being scammed, contact the sheriff’s office fraud line at 258-3292, or ic3.gov.