Sweetheart Swindlers Con Hearts and Banks An increasing number of people are being taken by con artists they meet on Internet dating sites. We offer tips on how to keep safe from these expensive heartbreakers.
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Sweetheart Swindlers Con Hearts and Banks

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Sweetheart Swindlers Con Hearts and Banks

Sweetheart Swindlers Con Hearts and Banks

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.

If you want to go online and find the love of your life, beware of people who want to sweet talk you out of your money. They're known as sweetheart swindles and they've become so pervasive that the National Consumers League has put them on its list of top 10 scams.

Here to discuss how to avoid losing your heart with your money is Michelle Singletary, personal finance contributor for DAY TO DAY.

Welcome to the program.

MICHELLE SINGLETARY: Oh, it's a pleasure to be here.

BRAND: So this is one of the top 10 scams. How much money are we talking about?

SINGLETARY: Well, the National Consumers League estimates that victims are losing about $3,000 a year per person. Now, of course that means people are losing much more than that in this type of scam.

BRAND: So this kind of sounds likes a scam as old as the ages. Why do people keep falling for it?

SINGLETARY: I've seen some of the conversations. Some people have sent me the online conversations that they've had. And you know, they say things like, oh, my dear, my honey, you know, you're so nice. I've been waiting for someone you. And they just let their guard down. I mean, it's, you know, people do the craziest things when they're searching for love.

BRAND: I think there's some scientific study that said that when you're in the first beginnings of love you - really you lose actually your critical faculties, your critical judgment.

SINGLETARY: Right. You lose your common sense. You lose your mind, you know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BRAND: Yeah, you're just head-over heels and...

SINGLETARY: You're head-over heels.

BRAND: You're not thinking straight.

SINGLETARY: And that's true. And you know, lots of these people - and it's not just women, it's women and men - you know, are well educated and in their jobs doing really well. But there's something about when you factor in this love thing or this quest for affection - and the stories are very compelling. And you know, it may start off with just a couple hundreds dollars. So it doesn't, you know, red flags don't go off, because they're not saying send me $10,000 right away. I talked to one woman in particular who sent almost $35,000.

BRAND: Oh my.

SINGLETARY: To - we don't even know if it was a man - but who said that he was an engineer working in Nigeria.

BRAND: Oh, well, there's a giveaway.

SINGLETARY: A lot of e-mail scams - a lot of scams come out of Nigeria. And in this case she actually had to take out a home equity loan because she was getting advances on her credit cards to send to this gentleman, who - the way he snared her in and said, you know, that he had a son - I think it was an 11-year-old son who needed some medical help and he didn't have insurance to cover it. And she was a nurse and he was using medical terms that sounded right and some things she checked out, like the name of the hospital and things like that. And so she just got trapped in this and sent, you know, thousands of dollars to this fictitious person.

BRAND: Oh, very tragic. And - but it sounds very sophisticated, this scam. How can you tell if the person you're talking to online - the love of your life - is actually scamming you?

SINGLETARY: Well, for one thing, if they right away say they, you know, they're in love or they express all these feelings and you've only been talking to them for a couple of months - you've never met them - if they start asking for money, that's a - I mean, if they ask for money period, that is the red flag; you need to stop communication right there, because the chances are that it - I mean almost 99.9 percent, it's a scam.

BRAND: Thanks, Michelle.

SINGLETARY: You're welcome.

BRAND: I'm now going to go offline.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SINGLETARY: Find love the old-fashioned way. Ask your momma to hook you up.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BRAND: Michelle Singletary is our regular expert on personal finance and she writes the nationally syndicated column The Color of Money.

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