• Some scammers professed undying love and affection at warp speed; some secured their trust through passionate and intimate conversation; and others took a more deliberate approach with months of patient wooing before asking for money. Some scammers even make wedding plans.

    Eventually, all these scammers asked their love interests to wire money, usually to a location outside the U.S. Often claiming to be out of the country for business or military service, the pretenders may have talked about an urgent need for money for travel, medication, hospital bills for a child or other relative, visas or other official documents, for help in recovering from a temporary financial setback, or for a loan, but just until a big business deal takes place. Some asked their victims to do them a favor, like make a purchase online or forward a package to another country.

    According to complaints received by the FTC, the requests for money generally do not stop. If you respond once, you can count on more: money for an airline ticket, for another hospitalization, or for replacement funds for money lost during a mugging, a robbery, or detention in another country.

    Regardless of how convincing the story, the bottom line is this: if you send money to someone you haven’t met, the money will be gone, along with the person you thought you knew. Wiring money is the same as sending cash: once it’s gone, you can’t get it back. It can be heartbreaking to think of being so disappointed by someone you thought you knew, but it doesn’t have to bankrupt you, too.

    According to the FTC, here are some warning signs that someone you met online could be in it for the money:

    • Wanting to leave the dating site immediately and use personal e-mail or IM accounts.
    • Claiming instant feelings of love.
    • Claiming to be from the United States but currently overseas.
    • Planning to visit, but being unable to do so because of a tragic event.
    • Asking for money to pay for travel, visas or other travel documents, medication, a child or other relative’s hospital bills, recovery from a temporary financial setback, or expenses while a big business deal comes through.
    • Making multiple requests for more money.
      Asking for a favor, like make a purchase online or forward a package to another country.
    Regardless of how convincing the story, the bottom line is this: if you send money to someone you haven’t met, the money will be gone, along with the person you thought you knew. Wiring money is the same as sending cash: once it’s gone, you can’t get it back. It can be heartbreaking to think of being so disappointed by someone you thought you knew, but it doesn’t have to bankrupt you, too.
    To file a complaint or get free information on consumer issues, visit ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261
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