Watch out for the ‘romance scam’

Looking for Love: The romance scam

Not everyone using online dating sites is looking for love. Scammers are creating fake online profiles and using photos of other people in an effort to steal your money.

We spoke with one man who thought he’d found a future wife, only to learn he was at the heart of a scam that cost him thousands of dollars.

“We texted each other for probably about three months, learning about each other,” said fraud victim Phillip Lowery. “And she was looking to come to America, and I was looking for someone to come to America.”

Phillip met a woman on an online dating site when they began texting. She lived in Ghana. After several months, they decided they would get married.

He began sending money for visas, passports and clearance fees, when she said she became sick.

“She has a problem with malaria and she’s having kidney problems,” explained Phillip. “So I had to pay for a transplant.”

After he sent the money?

“He then tried reaching out to her, and she stopped returning his emails, stopped returning his phone calls,” explained US Postal Inspector Augustus Magee.

Postal inspectors call this a romance scam, where conmen pose on dating sites to lure in victims. In all, Phillip sent more than $250,000. But the scam didn’t end there.

“He had received several phone calls claiming that he had won the lottery,” Magee told us.

Inspectors say this is common. Conmen often share victims’ information. If they have your personal information – if they have your cell phone number – they may call you again trying to get you involved in some additional scam.

Phillip was told he won $4 million – all he needed to do was pay the fees. There is no legitimate lottery where you have to pay any type of associated fees in order to collect your winnings.

He lost even more money until postal inspectors were tipped off by the amount of priority envelopes he was sending out. Postal inspectors say Phillip learned a valuable lesson.

Be very cautious about these dating sites for one. Don’t give out any of your personal information, and you want to meet that person ‘in person.’

Postal inspectors say consumers need to remember they are talking to a stranger unless they verify their identity. Many dating sites recommend communicating through their site, so NO personal information is exchanged.

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