The Sweetheart Scam has been circulating quietly through the internet for several years. This form of fraud is when a criminal creates a fake profile on social media or online dating sites to find potential victims. They often strike up a relationship, build a sense of trust, and then start asking for money under false pretenses. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) here are some common reasons these criminals will ask for cash.

  • Plane tickets or other travel expenses.
  • Surgery or other medical expenses.
  • Custom fees to retrieve something.
  • Gambling debts.

They will often ask you to wire them cash or send reloadable cards so the money is untraceable. Protect yourself by following these guidelines.

  1. Stay on Guard – Remember, you don’t really know this person. It is easy to pretend to be someone else online. If something seems off, trust your gut.
  2. Never Transfer Money to Anyone – Especially if you have never met in person, don’t send cash to anyone over the internet.
  3. Talk to Your Family or Friends About the Situation – You may be too close to the situation to see any red flags. Trust the people you love to help you keep a level head.
  4. Meet in Person Before You Get Attached – If at all possible, meet this person before you get too emotionally involved. Even if this person isn’t a scammer, many people are different online compared to in-person.
  5. Use Common Sense – If this situation seems too good to be true, it probably is. Again, if something feels off, trust your gut and walk away.
  6. Don’t Feel Ashamed – It can be embarrassing to be tricked, but remember, scammers spend years learning how to be very convincing and persuasive. You’re likely not the first person to fall victim to this criminal. The best thing to do is to report the crime as soon as possible to your local law enforcement or the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) website.