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Lessons and stories from the front lines of fighting identity theft.


Protecting Yourself From Sweetheart Scammers

Feb 11

February is the month that florists and chocolatiers wait for all year long. And, while it’s not uncommon to tell your special someone that you appreciate them with a small trinket or nice dinner, make sure you’re not getting taken advantage of. No, not by spending too much on an elaborate rose bouquet or heart-shaped chocolate sampler, but by being taken for several thousand dollars in a loan you’ll never see repaid. How does that happen? Each year, people are tricked into loaning money to others who pose as online love interests, and Valentine’s Day is a peak time for those who perpetuate these schemes.

While there’s no form letter for the stories that are told to prospective marks, consumer advocates cite a few common threads:

  • A long-distance connection, with parties overseas from each other
  • A position of implied credibility – soldiers on deployment, diplomats, professors or English tutors, non-profit or aid workers
  • Irregularity of communication styles, with unusual or disconnected language that usually includes convincing and beautiful re-purposed love letters
  • Being asked for money – always with promise of repayment, which won’t come

In what form does the loan request usually come? Always after the exchange of some pictures and promising romantic communication. Then, either money is needed because of some dire life circumstance, or because they want to save up to come to see you–either of which ends up not being true. If this short list seems like an impossible recipe and that no one could be tricked into believing something so simplistic, it’s only because it appears here without being embroidered with hours of artful conversation and alluring photos of an attractive stranger, with details that appear authentic. Don’t be deceived.

As we’ve seen from the continued popularity of online dating exposé shows, the opaqueness of being someone else online gives others an opportunity to make a play for your wallet. Confirm that you’re connecting with others through legitimate channels online, and never send money or overly personal information (which could be used to gain access into your financial accounts) to someone you’ve not yet met. The old adage holds true: if someone seems too good online to be true, they might well be.

This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.

Published by permission from, Inc., an Experian company. © 2015, Inc. All rights reserved.