Heartbroken and broke: BBB warns online daters about the ‘romance scam’

MILWAUKEE — Some are taking advantage of those searching for their special someone. It starts with a meeting online.

Jim Temmer of the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau

"They're going to tell you how much they love you and how you're the best thing on Earth," explained Jim Temmer, president of the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau. "It's hard for people to admit they're being scammed in something like this."

Over time, the relationship deepens, despite the two people never meeting face-to-face.

Then, one person asks for help.

"Eventually, they're going to need money for something. 'Mom is having surgery.' 'I need a plane ticket.' 'Can I come see you?'" Temmer said.

This is a 'romance scam.'

According to the BBB, it's responsible for more than $2 billion dollars lost between 2013 and 2016.

"This isn't numerically one of our biggest scams, but when people fall on this one, they fall hard and they lose a lot of money," Temmer said.

Victims are left hurt, embarrassed -- and they may not even report the loss.

"Your heart is in it. Your emotions," Temmer explained.

Red flags of a 'romance scam' include:

  • Refusing to Skype or talk over the phone
  • Someone who comes on strong right away
  • Someone who controls the conversation
  • Someone who withholds personal information

They do all those things while, also, heaping on the praise.

"Don't give out your phone number at first. Don't give out your address, any of your personal information. You want to be the one really in charge of what's going on," Temmer advised.

The BBB says a retired man from central Wisconsin lost more than a quarter of a million dollars to this scam -- proving a lot of money can be lost when your heart is on the line.