Picture of Donna Harlow

Over the years, online dating has shed its bad image and become a common way for people to meet. While online dating sites and apps are a great way to meet new people, it’s also a common channel for scammers to take advantage. Unlike phone scammers asking for a quick buck, sweetheart scammers are in it for a longer game. These scammers take the time to get to know their target, enough to gain trust.  

I remember a woman telling our fraud department she had been texting and emailing with someone she met online for a year and they were planning to meet. The night before they were planning to meet, he suddenly left the country for his “dream job.” Two weeks later he started asking for money, with many different reasons why he needed it. He needed the money to finish the job, get back home, had a car wreck, medical expenses… the list went on and on. After the whole ordeal, she was out $60,000.

Keep an eye out for these red flags:

  • The person lives or works in another country, and promises to visit, but never “can.”
  • The person may only be available by texting or email and have many excuses why a phone won’t work from where they are. 
  • The person wants to keep the relationship a secret and asks you not to share information about your relationship, not even with your children, close friends or relatives.
  • The person requests that you electronically transfer or wire money to their attorney, a friend, or a relative who will be able to get the money to them. 
  • The person claims to have a large inheritance coming, but asks you to front them money.
  • The person may become threatening when you refuse to or stop sending money.
  • The person offers to have money wired to you or send you a check, that you can then send to them. 

How to protect yourself:

  • Always be cautious when communicating with someone you have never met face-to-face.
  • Never accept money from or send money to someone you have not met face-to-face.
  • Talk to a trusted friend or family member about your relationship. Ask them to assess the situation and make sure things make sense.
  • Trust, but verify. Look for ways to verify who the person is. Pictures that are posted online may be of anyone, not the person you are talking to – this is called Catfishing.

How to report fraud:

  • Notify your bank: if you’ve sent money, shared personal information, account information or online banking login credentials. The bank can help protect your account(s).
  • If you bank with Old National, call 1-844-ONB-4SRS (1-844-662-4777) for help.
  • Contact local law enforcement. Regardless if funds were lost by you, call your local law enforcement and let them know about your situation and what you’ve done to help yourself.

More ways to avoid being a victim of fraud

Find more articles and videos about detecting scams and protecting yourself from financial fraud.

Donna is a Senior Loss Prevention Analyst, CFE and part of the Fraud Prevention and Investigations Department at Old National. This group is responsible for investigating and responding to bank-related fraud situations, as well as training and educating associates and clients about fraud.

This content is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice or indicate the suitability of any product or service for your unique circumstances. You are encouraged to consult with a qualified legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professional based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.