Berthoud Weekly Surveyor | Covering all the angles in the Garden Spot

It’s a date – or is it? Romance scams play to the heart

April 19, 2019 | Local News

By Bob McDonnell
The Surveyor

The internet has many uses. Some are positive and some not so good. One aspect of being online that gets a lot of people in trouble is online romance/dating. It seems more and more people are trying to find true love, or their soul mate, through cyber methods. Millions of American use chatrooms, social networking sites and dating applications. Unfortunately, in this process many fall victim to what is known as a romance scam.

National Public Radio’s site states last year people reported losing $143 million to romance scams. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) receives thousands of reports each year about romance scammers who create fake online relationships only to rob their victims.

Sgt. Jim Anderson of the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office in Berthoud says a few scams happen locally. Anderson said last year his office received four or five calls regarding romance scams. He noted not all fell for the scam. There is no way of knowing those who were scammed but did not report that fact.

Who is getting scammed by fake suitors? According to, the typical victims are older widowed or divorced women. The site says these victims are educated and computer literate but emotionally vulnerable. Sgt. Anderson said this was true locally, with the victims and potential victims being in their 70s or 80s.

The FBI site says this scam can take months to develop before the victim is asked to give their new “friend” money. But getting your money is always the scammer’s purpose.

There are many telltale signs that the anonymous someone you are chatting with online is a scammer. The person claims their love for the victim quickly and suggests switching from the dating site to personal email or messaging.

Secondly, the person will say they reside in the United States but are traveling or working some where overseas.

Lastly, they plan to visit the victim but some traumatic event or business deal prevents it. Excuses abound.

The scammer attempts to learn as much as possible about the victim. They want to build trust with their intended prey. This may also include sending small gifts or flowers, usually in return for small favors. These favors turn into asking for sums of money eventually.

The money may be for the unforeseen circumstances mentioned above or because they lack the funds to buy a plane ticket to visit the victim.

Potential victims should never wire or send money to the stranger. The scammer will tug at the victim’s heartstrings saying the money is for a medical emergency, hotel bills, hospital bills, or visas and other documents. Other times the scammer will claim to have been mugged or robbed.

Some dating sites are legitimate but, in all cases, take things slowly. Ask the person questions and look for consistent answers.

If the person sends a photograph, check it out. Computer search engines can do a search by image. If the same picture shows up with different name, beware.

There are many resources for reporting romance scams. They include calling the FTC’s Consumer Response Center at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FBI has a complaint center. Go to to file a complaint there. The local non-emergency number for the Larimer County Sheriff’s Department in Berthoud is 970-532-2611.

Overall, be vigilant and logical. Don’t get swept up in the emotions of the minute. It could save you a lot of heartache and some money.

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