Sweetheart Scams and How to Avoid Them

What’s a “Sweetheart Scam”?

It’s a simple trick  but one that is increasing in popularity. People all over globe are reaching out and meeting new acquaintances using the internet. This is such a great tool! But that tool is being used to gain access to private information that some are all too willing to give out.

Finding friends through the internet has been really great, especially given the recent global shutdown. Internet dating has become very popular too, but how can you trust the other person? It’s a balance of getting to know someone well, developing trust over time and meeting in-person. But scammers have been taking advantage of this type of relationship to benefit themselves and they’ve been targeting our elderly community.

A Sweetheart Scam is when a scammer meets their target online, develops a relationship with them then stages an emergency like a sick relative or a housing crisis. They ask their new partner for money and tend to use abusive language and manipulative behavior to get what they want. The realty of the situation is that they’re lying. They intent from the start was just to steal money.

In June 2021, the state of Virginia released a statement that they had arrested nine individuals involved in an online scam that defrauded over 200 people, many of which were from the elderly community. They’re accused of stealing just under $2.5 million along with an array of scamming crimes.*

How to avoid a Sweetheart Scam

This is why it’s so important to have secure passwords that you change frequently. It’s not safe to send money or account information to someone who you have not met in person and have a trusted relationship with. It’s great to meet new people online and form friendships all over the world, but a true friend doesn’t mind revealing their identity.

The safest practice when it comes to avoiding a sweetheart scam is to just keep your private life to yourself – including your money. If someone you’ve met online tells you a long story about grief and hardship, it’s kind of you to be a shoulder to cry on. But it is not your responsibility to support them financially. That’s why credits unions like ours exist because we can help someone in need of a loan!

If you fear that there has been suspect activity on your account, reach out to use immediately by phone at 800-732-4447 or stopping into one of our open branches. We can work with you to secure your accounts and take action. For more information about identity theft protection, check out our available options here: Insurance & Identity Theft Protection Services

*Information provided by the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions.