Online social platforms are everywhere, including dating websites. Unfortunately, scammers are trolling online social and dating platforms, looking to target unsuspecting victims. The Florida Office of Financial Regulation encourages Floridians to remain vigilant when navigating online social connections.
Romance scams can happen on social media networks and websites dedicated to romantic connections. Common claims by scammers, posing as online love interests, are that they would like to meet in person but cannot afford to, that they are living in another country or even that they are responsible for a sick relative. These false claims will usually lead to a request for money. If the person has a list of reasons why they cannot meet in person, especially any excuse relating to money, it may be a scam.
Below are some tips to help protect yourself from becoming a victim:
- Remain wary of online friends who ask for money or for information about your financial situation, especially unsolicited friends.
- Think twice before you post something on social media. Consider if the information could be used to help scam you.
- Don’t give out location information or personal identifying information to anyone online.
- Beware of anyone who “comes on strong,” is aggressive, or quickly asks you to move your relationship offline.
- Be extremely cautious of any investment opportunity or business venture pitched through social media or online dating platforms. Do your homework on any opportunity before committing, and make sure that the business or individual is properly licensed.
As a real-life scenario of this type of scam, in the Orlando area from 2003 through 2013, Scott Campbell used online dating websites to target single women with an investment scam. He enticed more than 30 victims into investing in his fake musical recording and talent search business with promises of a portion of his company’s future profits. The Florida Office of Financial Regulation’s investigation revealed that Campbell spent most of the $1 million collected from his victims on gambling and personal living expenses. In February 2015, Campbell was sentenced to 20 years in prison and 10 years of probation.
If you are a victim of a romance scam, please file a complaint with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. If you feel that you may be a victim of investment fraud or to report suspicious activity, please file a complaint with the Florida Office of Financial Regulation online, www.flofr.com, or call (850) 487-9687.
The Florida Office of Financial Regulation offers an online Consumer Knowledge Center, where Floridians can learn more about how to spot potential scams.