Image via Shutterstock. Watching out for scammers while still being open to love.
Image via Shutterstock.

Here’s how to avoid being taken advantage of when looking for love. 

Valentine’s Day is a day of romance, flowers, and, unfortunately, scams against the broken-hearted.

These “sweetheart scams” often begin with online dalliances and, NC Attorney General Josh Stein says, led to more than 50 complaints in 2020. North Carolinians lost $3.1 million to these bad actors. 

Stein’s office is warning people about these scams, especially seniors or people who recently lost a partner or loved one. 

“It’s very hard to ever find out who the culprit is, because they can be anywhere in the world.  They’re just some nameless person behind a computer screen representing to be some handsome photograph or a beautiful picture,” Stein told WECT News, the NBC affiliate in Wilmington. 

North Carolinians should be wary of any online suitor who:

  • Rushes the relationship and is unusually quick to profess love.
  • Has a complex, lengthy sob story that prevents them from visiting or video chatting. 
  • Asks for money, often through gift cards or wire transfer.

Romance scams are just one way North Carolinians are losing their hard-earned money to online scammers or identity thieves. At their core, charlatans asking for money and pretending to be someone you trust.

The Calls We All Hate 

We all get them. Stein’s office is trying to get the flood of robocallers to stop, and filed a lawsuit last month against a Texas telephone service provider that his office accused of targeting hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians. 

The provider, Articul8, over a period of months in 2020 and 2021,  routed more than 65 million calls to phone numbers in North Carolina. Some people were getting between 50 and 200 calls on a single day, according to a news release from the Attorney General’s office.

“Robocallers continue [to] be a daily nuisance and a threat to our hard-earned money,” Stein said in the release.

Among the scams to look out for: callers pretending to be law enforcement officials and threatening people with arrest if they don’t pay up for an outstanding warrant or summons. 

Don’t believe that, Stein said, “No law enforcement agency will ever demand immediate payment from you to prevent arrest.”

You can report robocalls at www.ncdoj.gov/norobo or by calling 1-844-8-NOROBO.

Wronged and Want Action? 

As the state’s top prosecutor, Stein is authorized to investigate scams, and in some cases take action on behalf of North Carolinians who have been wronged.

You can file a complaint for a variety of issues through the Attorney General’s website

Telemarketers and robocalls made up the bulk of what his office handled last year, with more than 10,000 people registering complaints. 

Here’s a full list of top scamming attacks in 2021, according to the AG’s office:

  1. Telemarketing/robocalls: 10,011 complaints.
  2. Utilities scams: 1,949
  3. Credit cards: 1,648
  4. Motor vehicles: 1,363
  5. Price Gouging: 1,353
  6. Elder Fraud: 1,068
  7. Landlord/tenant: 1,028
  8. Home improvement: 861
  9. Insurance: 616
  10. Professional services: 605