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Sweetheart Scams


Sweetheart scammers are con artists who prey on lonely people by pretending to fall in love with them in order to win their trust and steal their money. While sweetheart scams can happen face-to-face, today’s sweetheart scams often take place online.

Scammers frequently create fake identities on dating websites and social media like Match, SeniorPeopleMeet, ChristianMingle, and Facebook. Some have even created phony dating websites to get to your credit card number and other private information.

Signs of a sweetheart scam:

  • The recent death of a spouse or some other tragic event can make victims a target for sweetheart scams
  • The scammer will often claim to be a U.S. citizen traveling or working overseas, for example with the military or as a teacher or a nurse. 
  • The scammer will ask to move the conversation to email or text message instead of communicating via the dating or social networking site
  • Sweetheart scammers are consistently positive and upbeat, and they present a fa├žade of unconditional love that can seem highly comforting.
  • The scammer may wait months before asking for money. The con artist convinces the victim that they are in a deep and committed relationship over the course of a painstaking grooming period that can last many months.
  • Sweetheart scammers often use one of these reasons for needing your money:
    • Airline tickets or travel documents to come to the United States
    • Bribes that must be paid before they can leave the country
    • Communication costs like a phone bill or Internet access
    • School tuition, so they can graduate and come to the U.S.
    • "Temporary” financial setback
    • Professional crisis that results in personal losses, like banking, finance, or overseas construction projects
    • Urgent medical expenses
    • To help them recover from a robbery or a mugging
  • Once the money is paid, the scammer promises to come to the U.S, continue the relationship in person, and get married. Victims of sweetheart scams feel that they are in a committed relationship and want to believe that the scammer is telling the truth. But if they send money, more excuses and requests for money will inevitably follow.
  • Victims may experience profound grief at the loss of the relationship once they accept that it was a scam. The lost money, often thousands of dollars, adds insult to injury. The victim may also feel too embarrassed to tell anyone what has happened.
  • Victims may become targets for another wave of scams. The sweetheart may confess to planning the scam but then claim to have actually fallen in love with the victim during the process. The scammer then asks for money to help them get out of a bind so that they can finally be together. A new perpetrator may also pose as an official in the country where the scammer lives, offering to return the victim’s lost money for a fee.
  • Other variations of the sweetheart scam:
    • The scammer may send the victim money orders to cash and wire the money back, but the money orders are later found to be counterfeit, meaning the victim is responsible for the lost funds.
    • Sweetheart scammers sometimes ask their victims to make online purchases for them or to forward a package to another country, getting them to serve as mules to carry out illegal schemes.

We Can Help
Although many victims of sweetheart scams are hesitant to come forward, we strongly encourage people to report these scams.  If you or a loved one has fallen victim to a sweetheart scam, report it to our office by phone toll-free within North Carolina at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or online at ncdoj.gov.