Romance scams: How to spot, avoid a costly relationship

A Centerville man thought he found love, but now he knows it was a lie. He lost $800 in a romance scam and wants to warn others. 

He requested to be known only as “Joe” to protect his identity out of fear of losing his job and reputation. 

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Joe said it started when a woman he didn’t know sent him a message on Twitter and then she requested they start chatting on Google Hangouts. 

“She then started getting into, ‘Oh, I want to be married and I want to have children,’” Joe said. 

They exchanged revealing pictures. The trap was set. 

“She requested at first $600 for food for her and her dog and I said no,” said Joe. “She kept badgering and finally I went ahead and did something stupid. I transferred a $150 via Western Union.” 

She also told Joe she needed money to help get her gold bar inheritance and cash for her kidnapped brother in Ghana. 

“That was a huge trigger,“ Joe said, “Bottom line: it was totally a scam.” 

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The amount of money lost in romance scams like this is staggering, according to Better Business Bureau Vice President of Communications Sheri Sword. 

“It’s estimated that over the last three years there have been a million victims and over a billion dollars lost. The problem is it is just the tip of the iceberg because many people don’t report these scams,” Sword said. 

Here are the red flags to watch out for, according to the BBB: 

  • Requests for wired money, gift cards, prepaid cards.  
  • Pleas for money for an emergency.  
  • Misspelled words and bad grammar.  
  • Using pet names or declarations of love. 

Joe hopes others learn from his mistakes. 

“Delete them, block them, run away.”