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Breaking Up with Romance Scams

by Sheryl Harris , Director, Department of Consumer Affairs
hand holding flowersRomance scams aren’t the most common scams Consumer Affairs deal with, but they are the most financially and emotionally devastating to victims.

These online romances feel very real. But they are long-term cons designed to drain victims’ money. The median loss for a romance scam victim is $2,600, but many victims lose $10,000 or more. People who are 40 to 69 tend to be hardest hit.

If you are involved in an online romance and a love interest that you have never met in person asks you to send money, it’s likely that you are ensnared in a scam.

How to spot a romance scam:
  • Romance scammers may lurk on dating sites, but also try to connect with people through social media sites like Facebook.
  • Romance scammers rush into love. Right away, they tell you they know you are the one. They flatter you, like what you like and always agree with your views. They’ll make sure they’re perfect for you.
  • Romance scammers usually claim to be Americans working overseas (i.e., they’re military or relief workers or business people stationed abroad). Why? Because even though they tell you they plan to visit you, they need a plausible excuse for why they are never able to meet you in person.
  • You may feel some doubts because their stories have holes or inconsistencies. Or, family or friends may tell you they’re worried about you and your relationship.
  • Romance scammers always ask their victims for money. They may start by “testing” your willingness to give by suggesting you send them a smaller gift before they begin inventing hard-luck stories designed to get you to wire money or share gift card numbers.
  • If you do an online search of their photo, you may find it is used with other names or identities. Scammers swipe other people’s pictures from the internet and use them as their own.
  • Romance scammers will often ask you to provide an intimate photo or video. If you try to end the relationship, they will try to blackmail you into continuing to send money.

If you suspect that you or someone you care about is involved in a romance scam, please contact the Department of Consumer Affairs by calling 216-443-7035 or by stopping in Room 4-200 of the Cuyahoga County Administrative Headquarters Building located at 2079 East Ninth Street, Cleveland OH 44115 to talk to a Consumer Affairs investigator.