Law enforcement is warning Ohioans to be aware of a growing romance scam on social media with Valentine’s Day approaching.
It is called ‘pig butchering,’ which involves scammers who use convincing storylines to build trust or ‘fatten up’ victims before enticing them to make investments in fraudulent schemes, according to the Ohio Department of Commerce Division of Securities.
Scammers refer to the victims as being ‘pigs’ and develop relationships to convince victims to put their money into cryptocurrency or other investments with the promise of high returns.
“While dating apps and social media platforms may be good ways to meet new people, the Division of Securities urges all individuals to exercise extreme caution when sharing personal information or engaging in financial transactions with unknown people since they can easily turn fraudulent,” the department said. “These scams often involve building false relationships to lure victims into sending money, unwittingly participating in financial fraud, or even becoming targets of identity theft.”
35 Ohioans reported online romance scams to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office with losses totaling $1.8 million in 2022, Seidt said.
Nearly 70,000 people nationwide reported a romance scam in 2022 with reported losses totaling $1.3 billion, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
“At a time when more individuals are forging emotional connections through digital means, online platforms have also become hunting grounds for fraudsters,” said Ohio Division of Securities Commissioner Andrea Seidt. “Individuals are often targeted by sophisticated criminal networks who exploit the desire for love and companionship to deceive individuals and steal their personal and financial information.”
The Divisions of Securities is also offering Ohioans these tips to avoid romance scams:
Be cautious of “love bombing,” which occurs when a new love interest showers you with affection and compliments. Be cautious of individuals who claim that destiny or fate brought you together or claim to love you after a short time.
Be especially wary if you have just lost a loved one; many times, scammers study obituaries to find people who have recently suffered a loss.
They are also encouraging people to talk to friends and family members about online relationships, even if the other person asks you keep the relationship secret and be skeptical of money requests to be sent via wire transfer, cryptocurrency, money, gifts cards, etc. Those are the preferred payment methods for scammers.
“By reporting suspicious activities, we can work together to identify trends and take necessary actions to protect our citizens,” said Seidt.
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