AG Wilson warns SC residents to protect themselves against romance scams

Attorney General Alan Wilson is warning South Carolinians to be wary of scams this Valentine's Day.

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO)—Attorney General Alan Wilson is warning South Carolinians to be wary of scams this Valentine’s Day.

Organized criminals have turned to romance scams in order to raise money. These situations occur when fraudsters use a fake online identity to reach out to another person with the intention of establishing a relationship.

The scams are prevalent on dating apps and social media. The criminals establishing the relationships are experts at what they do and seem genuine, caring, and believable, say officials.

They may seem to have similar interests as their victims and will provide photos that allegedly show them, their family, and other personal subjects.

According to a press release, close to $1 billion in losses was reported as a result of romance and similar scams in 2021 alone based on complaints received by the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Attorney General Alan Wilson says, “Many romance schemes are perpetrated by criminals who use staged photos and social engineering to tell victims what they want to hear. Often, when we hear what we want to hear from someone that seems to care about us, we trust that person, and we don’t look behind the story, but we have to be more vigilant when we meet people online because it is very difficult or impossible to figure out what is going on behind the scenes.”

The best way to protect yourself from these schemes is to ignore any unsolicited texts, emails, or social media contacts.

You can also protect yourself by following these steps:

• Keep your guard up.  If a new romantic interest suddenly starts asking for money or encourages you to start investing, be cautious.

• Run a background check. Do online searches to get a better idea of who the person you are dealing with is and what they do. Fake online profiles tend to lack information about an individual, and the images used in an activity feed may feel impersonal or staged. Scammers often use stolen images from real people or stock images, so it’s good to do online image searches to check the origin and use of the image.

• Check registration. Firms that provide investment advisory services in the U.S. are typically registered at the federal or state regulator. Check the SEC’s Investment Adviser Public Disclosure database or FINRA’s BrokerCheck to verify registered individuals or firms.

• Suggest meeting in person or by a clear video feed. Try to meet in-person in a safe, busy public place, and bring a friend or family member with you.

• Research websites and apps. Scammers can easily create a custom online platform and direct you to the website in order to take your money and hide from authorities. If a person encourages you to invest and recommends an investing website or app, make sure it is registered to do business in your state before investing. Do business directly with the registered platform, don’t allow someone to act as an intermediary.

• Look for red flags. Promises of high returns with low risks, or a guaranteed return in a short time period are red flags of investment fraud.


Categories: Local News, News, State