Online romance – man and woman joining hands through computer monitor; image by Don Hankins, via Flickr, CC BY 2.0, no changes.
Online romance – man and woman joining hands through computer monitor; image by Don Hankins, via Flickr, CC BY 2.0, no changes.

The Associated Press reported that the Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has issued a warning to Arizona residents about online romance scams that have taken advantage of several victims recently. This warning was issued after it was discovered that several Phoenix residents were attempting to wire thousands of dollars overseas.

These scammers take advantage of people searching for romance online and on social media by appearing to be interested in them before eventually convincing them to send them money. Many of them tell their potential “love interest” that they need money for health reasons or to travel.

Most of these scams in Arizona were found to originate from Ghana. Some of the money transfers were stopped with a seizure warrant issued by the AG, which resulted in almost $14,000 being returned to the victims of the scammers.

Online Scam Facts

There are many online scams in operation today, and many of them originate from foreign countries. Most of these scams try to gain the trust of an Internet user and eventually ask them for money for what they claim are medical or travel costs.

  • In 2017, the top online scam took $328 million dollars from unsuspecting victims. These scammers pretended to be loved ones in trouble, tech support, and government officials.
  • Most scammers contacted their victims in 2017 via phone, asking for wired funds.
  • Based on per 100,000 population, the states with the highest rates of fraud and scams were Florida, Georgia and Nevada.
  • The FBI states that in 2017 there was $211,382,989 reported in losses due to romance scams and frauds where perpetrators pretended to be someone they weren’t.

Avoiding Online Scams

The best way to avoid becoming a victim of one of these scams is to never give anyone personal information, and always report suspicious messages or activity to authorities. Remember that banks and law enforcement agencies will never contact you via email or messaging to threaten you if you don’t send money. If you do receive threats or requests for payment, these should be reported to the Internet Crime Complaint Center on the FBI’s website.

Broken heart between two cellphone users; image by geralt, via Pixabay, CC0.
Broken heart between two cellphone users; image by geralt, via Pixabay, CC0.

Always remember that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Some scams will promise huge returns if you send a smaller amount of money. Recent reports from 2017 stated that millennials are more apt to fall for a scam than even seniors now, mainly because they believe someone is actually sending them to collections or someone actually stole their personal identity.

If you ever receive an email, message or phone call from a supposed representative from a company you actually do business with, make sure you never give them account information to “verify” or any information about yourself.

The Better Business Bureau suggests the following to avoid becoming a victim as well:

  1. Never send money to someone you don’t know personally or you haven’t met in person.
  2. Never click on attachments or links sent to you unsolicited, or you can risk downloading malware on your personal computer.
  3. Make sure all transactions you make online are on a secure site.
  4. Use extra caution when dealing with someone you’ve met online.
  5. Be careful what you share on social media, and only interact with people you know in real life.
  6. Try to always do business locally, especially if you will need to have workers in your home or they will be dealing with your money and personal information.
  7. Never give in to high-pressure sales tactics, and never pay by wire, cash, prepaid money cards, gift cards or any other non-traditional payments.

Remembering these tips during everyday Internet use and teaching them to your friends and family may help to lessen the risk you’ll become a victim like those in Arizona. Keep your wits about you at all times and think before you agree to any arrangement or paying for anything online or by wire. The fewer interactions you have online, the better your chances of staying safe. If this isn’t always possible, ensure your firewall and computer security/anti-virus software is working properly at all times.

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