As millions of Americans prepare to celebrate the most romantic day of the year, MoneyGram (MGI), a leading global money transfer and payment services company is warning consumers to watch out for scam artists who claim to be “looking for love.”
The scammers scout dating sites, chat rooms, blogs and social media networks to lure their victims into forming a relationship. They usually claim to be Americans traveling or working abroad. In reality, they often live overseas. Their most common targets are women over 40, who are divorced, widowed, and/or disabled, but every age group and demographic is at risk.
“The scams typically begin online, with the scammer quickly professing love for the victim,” says Kim Garner, senior vice president of global security at MoneyGram. “After winning the victim’s trust, the scammer will ask the victim to send money through a wire transfer – claiming the need for some type of emergency, custom or duty fees, or even for travel costs to finally meet the unsuspecting victim. Once the victim wires the money, they never hear from the scammer again.”
According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, (IC3) a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center, consumers lost $55 million to romance scams in 2012.
The IC3 reports that some criminals take the scam a step further by baiting a victim into intimate conversations or sending provocative pictures, and then threaten to expose them if they don't pay up.
- Online conversations filled with spelling and grammatical errors
- Profile photo does not match alleged age or ethnicity of individual
- Person refuses to provide contact information or claims not to own a phone
- “Relationship” moves really fast
- The topic of money comes up quickly
“Pay attention to the warning signs, and push back if you suspect a scam,” says Garner. “Listen to your instincts, and never send money to someone you don’t know or who you have never met in person.”
MoneyGram advises consumers to keep their hard-earned dollars in their own pockets by following the three Rs – recognize, react, and report.
- Recognize: Savvy consumers should look for red flags when someone asks them to send money through a wire service or money order, because scammers often request these methods knowing that once the money is sent, it cannot be retrieved.
- React: When they identify a scam, consumers should immediately put an end to any transaction or conversation – hang up the phone, delete the email, or end the back-and-forth messaging.
- Report: Report the suspected scam to the local police, and file reports with the Federal Trade Commission, National Consumers League, and Internet Crime Complaint Center (if the suspected fraud was online).
Consumers should call 1-800-MONEYGRAM (800-666-3947) if they believe MoneyGram was used to wire money as a result of a scam. Since mid-2010, MoneyGram has helped prevent hundreds of millions of dollars in suspected fraud activity globally, put those dollars back in the pockets of consumers, and kept the funds out of the hands of scammers. Consumers can learn more about protecting themselves against fraud at www.moneygram-preventfraud.com.
About MoneyGram International
MoneyGram International, a leading money transfer company, enables consumers who are not fully served by traditional financial institutions to meet their financial needs. MoneyGram offers money transfer services worldwide through a global network of 334,000 agent locations – including retailers, international post offices and financial institutions – in 200 countries and territories. MoneyGram also offers bill payment services in the U.S. and Canada. To learn more about money transfer or bill payment at an agent location or online, please visit moneygram.com or connect with us on Facebook.
- Financial Fraud Prevention
Michelle Buckalew, 214-979-1418