U.S. Attorney Peter McCoy warns South Carolinians about online romance scams

COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO)– With Valentine’s Day coming up this weekend, U.S. Attorney Peter M. McCoy Jr. put out a warning for South Carolinians to be aware of online romance scams. The attorney said fraudsters can utilize various dating apps and social media to extort money out of victims.

“It is likely a scam if the person you have just connected with online and have never met in person professes love quickly,” said U.S. Attorney McCoy.  “Also be wary of someone claiming to be overseas for business or military service, someone asking for money and quickly attempting to lure you off the dating site, someone who plans to visit but can’t because of an emergency, and someone claiming to need money – for emergencies, hospital bills, or travel.”

According to the Federal Trade Commission, $304 million was reported lost from romance scams nationwide in 2020.

“The crimes involving romance scams are increasing at an alarming rate,” warns U.S. Attorney McCoy.  “From 2015 to 2020, the total amount of money lost by victims increased from $33 million to $304 million.  This clearly isn’t going away, and the public should take precautions accordingly.”

U.S. Attorney McCoy provided the following advice for South Carolinians in his statement released Friday:

  • Ensure the dating site does not sell personal data to third parties or advertisers.
  • Do a reverse image search of the person’s profile picture.  If it is associated with another name or with details that do not match up, it is a scam.
  • Search online for the type of job the person claims to have and check to see if others have reported romance scams based on that job.  For example, search for “oil rig scammer” or “overseas military scammer.”
  • Do not let scammers rush you.  Slow down and talk to someone you trust before taking any quick action on requests made by someone you have not met in person.
  • Do not send intimate photos to an online acquaintance, as they could be used to extort you later.
  • Never transfer money from your bank account, never buy gift cards, and never wire money to an online love interest.
  • Immediately contact your bank if you think you’ve sent money to a scammer.
  • If you have become a victim, do not be too ashamed or afraid to report it.  Report your experience to the FTC by phone to 1-877-382-4357 or online at www.ftc.gov/complaint.  And report it to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.
Categories: News, State