Beware of romance scams on dating websites, media platforms

Ron Craig, Crime Prevention/Community Policing Officer

        As we just lived through another Valentine’s Day, now is the time to warn people about all the romance scams making their way through the various dating websites and social media platforms.
        Although the scammers are primarily targeting seniors in these scams, just about everyone is falling for them. Scammers are looking for lonely people who want to find someone with whom they can chat online. The scammers hope to expand the chats to something more romantic, kindling a flame of emotions from victims who want the ordeal to turn out to be a “dreams come true” situation.
        Scammers may spend a considerable amount of time communicating with the victims first before asking for money or personal information. This is usually done to make their stories more believable. However, eventually and before they know it, victims of these scams have themselves believing the stories they have been told by the scammers. It is one of the worst types of scams that can happen to unsuspecting people who have been tricked into thinking there is really someone out there who truly cares for them.
        In addition to the emotional toll it takes on victims, there are also the financial traps as well.
        There are a wide variety of situations the scammers employ to snag their victims, but one of the most common is one in which the scammers tell their victims they are overseas and need money to get back home. Most of these scammers are actually originating from outside of the country. This is one of the reasons it is nearly impossible for law enforcement to catch and prosecute them.
        Some scammers play the part of military personnel, saying they have an approaching leave to which they are entitled. They convince their victims they can get the leave extended if they show their commanding officers they have a specific stateside destination. The scammers go so far as to come up with phony documents that actually look like real documents to “prove” they are who they say they are.
        A variation to this scam is one in which they have been given a rather large amount of gold they want to send home but have no one they can trust to send it to. Of course, they need money to ship it here from whatever country they are in
        I was recently told by a Lake Township resident the “boyfriend” she thought she was in a long-distance relationship with got the gold from a dignitary of the country he was in. The gold was purportedly a gratuity for services he provided the dignitary on a special assignment to protect the dignitary.
        It is not possible for me to present in this column every eventuality and every angle these scammers may use to ensnare their victims. Just remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
        This article is a public service from the Community Policing/Crime Prevention Division of the Lake Township Police Department. Township residents may obtain further information on crime prevention and public safety topics by contacting Ron Craig, crime prevention specialist/community policing officer, at 419-481-6354.


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