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NH Sees Sharp Rise in Romance Scams Targeting Older Women

According to AARP New Hampshire, the state has the second-highest median age in the country, making it a target for some types of online scams. (silviarita/Pixabay)
According to AARP New Hampshire, the state has the second-highest median age in the country, making it a target for some types of online scams. (silviarita/Pixabay)
April 26, 2019

CONCORD, N.H. – The New Hampshire Attorney General's office has received about 100 reports of people targeted by romance scams since January, which it says is a sharp uptick.

The con has a consistent script – the scammer claims to be an American living overseas, which is why they can't see the victim right away. They mostly approach older women online who are divorced, widowed or lonely.

After the relationship takes a more serious tone by phone and text, they schedule to meet in person, but then face a "catastrophic event." To get past it, they ask the victim for money – often tens of thousands of dollars.

New Hampshire Assistant Attorney Brandon Garod says it's happening a lot.

"In the last few weeks, we have seen a huge uptick in this romance scam, and it has been the majority of the calls that we have received recently," says Garod.

He says the initial contact is usually through a Facebook "friend" request, or on an online dating site.

Garod explains the best preventive step is to not accept friend requests from people you don't know. And be wary if anyone asks you for money who hasn't met you in person.

Garod says another telltale sign is the scammer doesn't have an American accent.

"They always claim to be Americans living overseas," says Garod. “But when we ask the victims, 'When you spoke with them, what did they sound like?' They always say, 'Oh, they had an accent.'"

Garod notes that while many of the women caught up in the scam are suspicious at first, they are won over by fraudsters who can be very charming.

For victims of romance scams, Garod says the consequences are devastating, financially. One woman reported losing more than $200,000 to a bogus love interest.

But he says that isn't the whole story.

"The money is usually not the hardest part for the people," says Garod. “It's letting go of this idea that they were going to no longer be lonely; they were going to have somebody else to spend their life with."

So far, the state Attorney General hasn't been able to prosecute any of the perpetrators, particularly since they are based abroad. If you think you or a loved one may be the victim of this type of fraud, it's important to report it to law enforcement.

AARP New Hampshire also suggests telling its Fraud Watch Network, at 877-908-3360 or online at 'aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.'

Laura Rosbrow-Telem, Public News Service - NH