Sometimes love isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, especially when you fall for a con- artist. The North Carolina Attorney General’s office identified at least 25 of these victims last year. Together they forked over more than $2 million to their online sweethearts who turned out to be not so true.
Attorney General Roy Cooper doesn’t usually offer thoughts on love, but he’s making an exception.
“Love is a wonderful thing, but not when a scam artist rips you off using it,” says Cooper.
North Carolina is seeing a rise in these crimes called “sweetheart scams.”
Cooper’s office heard some doozies last year. One older woman from Lexington was seduced out of $1 million. A man befriended her on Facebook. He told her he was originally from Charlotte, but was working in Africa. He promised to marry her, but he first needed money to cover his expenses until he was paid for his contract work.
Other victims were scammed out of tens of thousands of dollars. Many of them were seniors.
“These scam artists do a lot of research on their victims. They try to find people of means. And it’s clear that these con artists are very convincing,” says Cooper. “Another problem is that most of them operate overseas making it difficult for law enforcement here in North Carolina and in the United States to catch them.”
Sometimes family members will alert police. Sometimes banks and wire companies will. Last year, the state was able to stop three people from boarding planes to hand-deliver cash to their sweethearts in other countries.
So in this Valentine’s season, Cooper has some advice: Remember, people online aren’t always who they say they are, and never send money to strangers you meet through internet sites, even if they say they love you.