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Sweethearts not always sweet deal

In the 21st century, one can do just about anything online from shopping, playing games, reading and research and even finding a love match.

Dating websites are more prevalent than ever, but, as Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine warned recently, not everyone claiming they are looking for romance can be trusted.

In the past 12 months the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section has received more than 40 complaints involving sweetheart scams. The average reported loss is more than $26,000.

Sweetheart scammers begin their con by meeting a person through an online dating or social networking site and attempts to develop a relationship with that person. Eventually, the scammer will ask for money to help cover some type of cost, such as airfare to visit, medical expenses or fees associated with military leave. The scammer often asks the victim to send the money via wire transfer. Once the money is sent, it is nearly impossible to recover.

Even though the attorney general’s office time and time again warns Ohioans never to send money to people they don’t know, still some fall victim to these scams.

DeWine offers these tips in spotting a potential scammer:

• Research someone you meet online; don’t rely on what that person tells you. Perform Internet searches and consider getting a background check.

• Be cautious of individuals who claim it was destiny or fate that brought you together.

• Talk to friends and family members about online relationships.

• Don’t send money to someone you meet online, even if you have developed a relationship.

• Be very skeptical of requests for money sent via wire transfer or prepaid money cards. These are preferred payment methods for scammers.

Consumers who suspect a scam should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov.