Featured News - Current News - Archived News - News Categories

Metro Creative Graphics
Metro Creative Graphics

Consumer alert: NYS DCP issues alert about romance scams


Wed, Feb 14th 2024 10:25 am

Submitted by the New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection

The New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection (DCP) is warning New Yorkers about romance scams and is offering information and tools to help identify and outsmart scammers who prey on people’s emotions and trust.

Romance scams occur when a criminal lies about their identity and uses romantic interest to manipulate or steal from the victim. Thieves use different variations of these scams to deceive unsuspecting daters.

“Valentine’s Day means love is in the air, and for many finding that special someone leads to online dating as an easy way to meet their potential match,” New York State Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez said. “But don’t underestimate the lengths some scammers will go through to take advantage of your heart to try and steal your money. If you are exploring online dating, I encourage New Yorkers to follow the Division of Consumer Protection’s helpful tips to identify these common red flags.”

The internet provides anonymity, allowing criminals unlimited time to troll for potential victims. Romance scams have the potential to affect everyone. Some groups are more frequently targeted, however, such as seniors – and especially widows, widowers and recent divorcees.

Common Elements of a Romance Scam

√ Fake online profiles: Scammers create the illusion of someone you would be attracted to and trust. They seek opportunities to meet someone online and create profiles on a wide range of online platforms including social media, dating sites, messaging apps and porn sites. They may find images online to use in their profile to lure unsuspecting victims.

√ Unexpected contact: Scammers may make contact online and use a variety of methods to learn about their victims. They will do online research or scroll the information on your social media profile in order to tap into your interests and emotions, spark a conversation and build a relationship.

√ Build trust: Scammers are patient and may communicate for weeks or months until they’ve earned your trust.

√ Unavailable to meet in person: Scammers may propose an in-person meeting, claiming they will travel to see you, but then claim a last-minute emergency preventing it from happening. Scammers will often say they are working outside of the country creating a convenient reason not to meet in person. Be suspicious of anyone who says they want to meet but then always makes excuses for why they can’t.

√ Request money: Scammers often start by requesting small amounts of money and paying it back quickly to build trust. Eventually, the scammers may request a large sum of money, usually as a loan, to be wired to them for things ranging from business investments, property, debts, illness and more. They may even ask for money for airfare so they can visit you. Once they receive the money, the scammer will often ask for more or create a new reason they need to borrow money. This will continue until the victim becomes suspicious, at which point the scammer will usually stop all contact and disappear.

√ Fake cryptocurrency investment: The FBI has identified a trend in which criminals are increasingly pressuring victims to invest in cryptocurrency. The scam starts as an online relationship, but instead of asking for cash, the scammer convinces the victim to investment in cryptocurrency. To demonstrate the returns on investment, victims are directed to fake websites that trick victims into believing these investment opportunities are legitimate. Once the victim makes a purchase, they are denied the ability to cash out their investments and the scammer vanishes.

√ Liability: Scammers may convert their victims into unwitting criminals by convincing them to launder and move fraudulent funds, which the victim may then be liable for both financially and potentially criminally.

Tips to Avoid Romance Scams

√ If someone you haven’t met in person asks you for money, assume it is a scam, even if they say they need it for an emergency or traumatic life event. Never give or loan money to someone that you have not met in person. Remember that wire transfers, prepaid cards, gift cards, and cryptocurrency are all equal to sending cash that you cannot get back. If someone asks for these types of payments, assume it is a scam.

√ Do not give out personal information to someone online, including payment and banking information, especially if you have not met them before.

√ Use trusted online dating sites, but still exercise caution. Beware of online interactions that quickly ask you to leave a dating service or social media site to communicate directly.

√ Be cautious of people you meet online who say they are an American abroad or a deployed soldier.

√ Schedule a live video-chat early in the relationship to ensure they are the person they are presenting in their profile.

√ Research anyone in whom you have an interest. Ask questions. Look them up online. Verify details where you can.

√ Do a reverse image search of the person’s profile picture. If it is linked to another name or details that don’t line up, it’s likely a scam.

√ Familiarize yourself with privacy settings for all your online platforms and consider limiting who has access to your personal information, contact lists and location.

√ Turn off or cover your web cameras when you’re not using them.

√ Don’t keep it a secret. Talk to a friend or relative about online interactions.

About the New York State Division of Consumer Protection

The New York State Division of Consumer Protection provides resources and education materials to consumers, as well as voluntary mediation services between consumers and businesses. The consumer assistance helpline (1-800-697-1220) is available from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays, excluding state holidays. Consumer complaints can be filed at any time at www.dos.ny.gov/consumer-protection. For other consumer protection tips and consumer alerts, consumers can follow the New York Department of State on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and check in every Tuesday for more practical tips that educate and empower consumers on a variety of topics. Sign up to receive consumer alerts directly to an email or phone here.

Hometown News

View All News