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Watch out for romance scams online this Valentine’s Day

Published: Feb. 11, 2022 at 8:08 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Dozens of Ohioans looking for love have wound up heartbroken and with empty bank accounts due to scammers.

Don’t be fooled this Valentine’s Day.

“Romance scams” are surging this time of the year.

And we found Ohio is one of the top states to lose out on money to scammers.

Americans lost a whopping $304 million to romance scammers in 2020, setting a record, according to socialcatfish.Com.

And 2021 numbers are expected to be even higher.

David McClellan is president of socialcatfish.com.

They focus on online safety.

“It’s the worst kind of scam there is because it’s not just clicking on a link and sending $250,” McClellan said.

“These scams play with your emotions, they happen over weeks, months, or even years where people typically lose—potentially lose their life savings, they’re taking out loans, we’ve even seen people become homeless from these scams,” he said.

Socialcatfish.com released a “State of Internet Scams 2021″ report using federal data.

We found Ohio ranks fifth in the country for the most money victims lost from 2016-2020, losing $170 million to scammers during that time.

And people lose the most money from romance scams, on average $15-25,000 per victim.

We asked McClellan what signs people should look for to determine if someone’s catfishing them.

“First of all, if someone randomly messages you. Romance scams don’t always happen on dating sites. In fact, they’re happening less and less on dating sites and more on social media sites,” McClellan said.

Other signs include:

-They can’t meet in person because of constant excuses

-They won’t video chat because their camera is broken or they don’t have access to wifi

-They ask you for money

-They have poor grammar

-And they confess their love quickly.

Here’s how to make sure you don’t become a victim.

“Never give money to anyone you haven’t met in person, right. It’s not just giving money, though; it’s sending money that was sent to you. And so sometimes if they don’t think they can get money from you, what they’ll do is they’ll try to use you to launder money,” McClellan said.

He recommends doing a background check and using reverse look-up sites for photos, and not giving out your personal information.

“All of these platforms where you can chat with people online, they are breeding grounds for scammers,” he said.

McClellan said the number of people scammed and the amount of money lost may be vastly under-reported.

Socialcatfish.com found one in three victims never reported it.

The age group now falling for scams at the fastest rate may surprise you too.

It’s Gen Z, 20 years or younger. Experts say that may be because they can be overly trusting online.

You can report scams to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515.

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