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Fraud Complicates Internet Love Connections

So-called "romance scammers" robbed people of at least $81 million in 2013, according to the AARP Fraud Watch Network. Credit: AARP.
So-called "romance scammers" robbed people of at least $81 million in 2013, according to the AARP Fraud Watch Network. Credit: AARP.
June 4, 2015

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – First they steal your heart, then your wallet.

So-called romance scammers robbed people of at least $81 million in 2013, according to the AARP Fraud Watch Network.

A campaign starts today to educate seniors using the sites about how to protect themselves, and pressure dating websites to install better protections.

AARP Fraud Watch volunteer Warren Searls in Hot Springs says love sometimes complicates basic logic.

"We would probably spend more time figuring out what the best toaster is to buy than we would checking out a person who we're interested in a relationship with," he says.

Tips include not providing your last name, address or workplace until you've met, turning off location settings on cell phones and terminating contact with anyone who asks you for money.

AARP also is gathering petition signatures to deliver to dating websites, asking them to crack down on scammers by shutting down accounts paid for with stolen credit cards or using algorithms to detect scammer language, as well as issuing alerts to members who have been in contact with someone using a fake profile.

Searls stresses consumers can't do it all on their own.

"The dating sites need to do some due diligence, as well,” he states. “This has turned out to be quite lucrative for scammers."

Searls adds that people understandably feel embarrassed if they've been scammed, but that it's important to notify local police and state investigators.


Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - AR