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Sep 10

Financial fitness: The ‘romance scheme’ industry and how to spot it before you’re a victim – NorthcentralPA.com

One of the most watched shows on Netflix right now is Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didnt Exist, detailing the 2012-13 catfish story of Manti Teo.

For those unfamiliar, Teo was a star linebacker for the Notre Dame football team who played for the national championship in 2013. He was an overwhelming consensus choice to be a first-round draft pick after his senior year, a season he was dedicating to both his grandmother and girlfriend who both died on the same day.

Prior to the draft, it was revealed that the girlfriend did not exist. Teo was the victim of a catfishing scheme where someone online pretends to be someone else, usually a romantic interest to the victim.

Online romance schemes often result in the victim losing money. In the case of Manti Teo, the financial loss was future earnings, as the fallout from the scandal hurt his position in the draft.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, victims lost a combined $547 million due to romance schemes in 2021. Over 56,000 scams were reported last year. The exact number of victims is likely higher, as many people are too embarrassed to report the crime to local authorities.

Weve seen potential victims at our credit union. Regardless of gender or age, the scams all work relatively the same. Potential victims are contacted online by someone who appears interested in them. The fraudster will likely have an online profile or send you a picture. For weeks, even months, a connection is formed texts, emails, and phone calls back and forth. The victim may receive flowers or other small gifts. Ultimately, the fraudster asks for money, perhaps to help them out of a dire situation.

Most of these scams follow a common pattern; here are a few red flags:

They ask you to start communicating by text or personal email, away from the original site you met on.

They make claims that your introduction was destiny or fate, especially early in communication or after just a few contacts or a short time, they profess their love or strong feelings for you.

They claim to be from the U.S. but currently living, working, or traveling abroad. They may attempt to gain sympathy by claiming to be in the military or on a missionary mission.

They offer various excuses for why they cant show you more photos of themselves.

After agreeing to meet, they postpone due to a sudden emergency.

After gaining your trust, they start telling you stories of bad luck or medical illnesses.

They ask for money, goods, or any similar type of financial assistance or they indirectly/directly ask for money, gift cards, or funds to pay credit cards. If an online love interest youve never met in person asks you for money, thats a scam. No matter what story they tell you.

They ask for assistance with personal transactions (opening new bank accounts, depositing or transferring funds, shipping merchandise, etc.).

They report a sudden personal crisis and pressure you to provide financial assistance. Be especially wary if the demands become increasingly aggressive.

Never send money or share personal information to someone you have only met online. If you think someone is setting you up to be a victim, discuss with family, a close friend, or your financial institution. We are here to help you protect your money. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg for online dating schemes.

For additional information, visithttps://www.horizonfcu.org/about-us/fraud-prevention/ and click on the Scams header, then the link for online dating romance scams.

If you or someone you know have been victimized, reach out to your local law enforcement, the FTC, and Attorney Generals office. You can submit a claim using the following links:

ReportFraud.ftc.gov - FAQ

Submit a Complaint PA Office of Attorney General

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Financial fitness: The 'romance scheme' industry and how to spot it before you're a victim - NorthcentralPA.com

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