CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - With Valentine’s Day around the corner, the Better Business Bureau warns scammers are preying on those looking for love online, especially during the pandemic.
Romance scams happen all year long, according to the BBB, but since more people are turning to online dating, they say people need to be vigilant.
Jessie St. Christopher, who lives in Cleveland, says she met a man on Plenty of Fish last year. After a month of talking on the phone and texting, she says he asked her for $25,000, claiming his work equipment broke.
“3rd or 4th conversation, he says you’re my wife, I’m just going to proceed as if you’re my wife because it’s going to happen. I’ve never met you face to face, and the next 48 hours, he was calling or texting me every few minutes please give me the money, please give me the money,” said St. Christopher.
She didn’t give him any money; instead, she says she blocked him. But she also had a man trying to steal her personal information.
According to the FBI, more than 23,000 victims lost $605 million nationwide in 2020, compared to 12,000 people getting scammed out of $200 million in 2015.
The State Attorney General’s Office received 38 complaints of romance scams in 2020, with people getting scammed out of nearly $830,000.
The BBB admits that romance scams can be harder to track.
“Victims of romance scams aren’t always willing to admit what happened. It’s embarrassing, it’s devastating,” said Sue McConnell, president, and CEO of the BBB of Greater Cleveland.
McConnell says don’t rush into any online relationship, research the person’s name and where they claim to live, and don’t give anyone money.
The BBB encourages people to report a scam, even if they didn’t lose any money.