Fraudulent online romance scams on the rise

Robin Bradshaw

With more people at home and unemployed during the pandemic, Denise Owens the fraud manager at Plains Capital Bank states she has seen an estimated 35 to 40 percent increase of online scams from her banking customers since the start of the pandemic.

"The pandemic has given fraudsters a new array of scams with the influx of people dating online, said Owens. "It’s a new twist on the Romance Scam, and fraudsters are tricking their online significant others out of their savings—and even their unemployment benefits—by claiming they need help paying for COVID-19 related emergencies."

The majority of these scams are with people engaged on social media platforms and dating sites. "The one shared variable with these scams is that the fraudsters groom their victim over an extended period of time. The fraudsters will then gain their victims trust and over time will become very demanding to get what they want," said Owens. "I see unemployment fraud cases from others states -as a major concern." "The fraudsters will groom their victim and ask them to cash or deposit the unemployment check and send the money, so they can see them or whatever the ploy to get what they want. Unfortunately, when the victim cashes or deposits the unemployment check they too are committing a fraudulent crime."

Owens is urging South Texas residents to be careful with online romances and always ask yourself does this make sense? "If someone you meet online is asking you for a favor or money- take a step back and think about what your doing- if something feels off, follow your gut. If the person asking for money or a favor becomes persistent or angry call the police because one truth remains if they do not get what they want from you -they will find another victim to prey on.“