From the President's Desk...
The calendar tells us that it’s February, which means that love is in the air. Yes, it’s almost Valentine’s Day…the time of year for Cupid, candy, cards, chocolate, and cuddling! These expressions of affection often include relatively small gestures, although some people mark the occasion by purchasing lavish gifts, such as jewelry. Sadly, however, some people use this time of year as an opportunity to take advantage of others, especially those who may be feeling lonely. I’m talking about a phenomenon known as the “romance scam”, and in 2022 this led to fraud losses for nearly 73,000 Americans of an estimated $1 billion (and those are only the losses that are actually reported!).
In a romance scam, the bad guy (or girl) preys on an unsuspecting target by befriending them from a distance. Normally this involves the creation of a fake social media profile, using photos of attractive people to lure their victims in while feigning a romantic interest. They seek targets that post online about being lonely or recently enduring a difficult breakup. The fraudster attempts to establish trust and rapport over a period of time by paying the victim compliments and faking shared interests as they get to know them, all the while making sure they never meet in person. Once that “relationship” exists - at least in the mind of the victim – they ask for money. This may be accomplished by wiring cash or sending gift cards to help with a sudden “emergency”.
Protect yourself and don’t fall victim to this scheme. Be cautious online before accepting friend requests from strangers, don’t provide private personal information, bank account data, or credit card numbers to anyone, and limit what information and details you share about yourself online. Most of all, if something (or someone) suddenly enters your digital life and it appears too good to be true, remember that it probably is.