By Summer Stephan
As your district attorney, I’m committed to increasing communication and accessibility between the DA’s office and you, the community. One way I have been doing that is through this monthly column, where I provide consumer tips on public safety matters.
We all know someone who has met the love of his or her life through an online dating site, app or chat room. Technology has simplified everything about our lives, even making finding your potential life partner just a click away on the dating app downloaded on your phone.
But, here is why you should be skeptical when communicating with someone you’ve met online. If you are lucky, the profile photos are an accurate reflection and resemble how the person currently appears. If you’re unlucky, the profile is a work of fiction the scammer is using to get money out of unsuspecting suitors.
They will hook you with attention, common interests or brave stories of their military service, but when the conversation turns to loans, wiring money or temporary cash advances because of a dire situation, that’s your cue that your online sweetheart is a trickster looking for easy money.
Keep this in mind before thinking it can never happen to you. According to the Federal Trade Commission, people reported losing $143 million to romance scams last year. In California, 1,761 romance scams were reported to the Internet Crime Complaint Center totaling $31.6 million in victim losses in 2017.
If your online romantic interest asks for money, slow down and consider the following:
Do not send money or gifts to anyone you do not trust or have not met in person.
Scammers will move the conversation off of the dating app to avoid detection by the dating site.
Don’t believe tough-luck stories requiring money. Ask questions and be aware of inconsistencies.
Use Google image search to check your online sweetheart’s photo. If the same image shows up with a different name, be suspicious.
If you decide to meet your online suitor in person, meet in a public place the first few times and make sure a trusted friend or family member is aware of the meeting.
Remember the saying about not judging a book by its cover? That applies in online dating. Ask questions and be aware that sometimes a person’s character may not match their profile photo.
The DA’s Consumer Protection Unit is composed of deputy district attorneys, investigators and paralegals dedicated to protecting consumers and law-abiding businesses from fraudulent or unfair business practices. To report a consumer complaint, you can call 619-531-3507 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
— District Attorney Summer Stephan has dedicated nearly 30 years to serving justice and victims of crime as prosecutor. She is a national leader in fighting sex crimes and human trafficking and in creating smart and fair criminal justice solutions and restorative justice practices that treat the underlying causes of addiction and mental illness and that keep young people from being incarcerated.