KSL INVESTIGATES

Love: Second Biggest Scam Of 2019 In Utah

Feb 14, 2020, 5:55 PM | Updated: 8:44 pm

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah – Imagine falling in love, only to have your potential mate steal your life savings. A West Valley City woman said most of her matches end up trying to rip her off.

Sometimes people don’t tell the truth online, which should surprise absolutely nobody. However, shocking new numbers show just how effective crooks have been at ripping off folks looking for love over the internet.

According FBI numbers obtained by KSL, 19,473 people lost over $475 million in 2019 to romance scams across the United States.

Nearly $1.6 million of that was reported by Utahns, making romance scams the second-costliest scam in the state.

FBI Special Agent Jeffrey Collins discusses the number of people ripped off in Utah in romance scams. (KSL TV)

FBI Special Agent Jeffrey Collins said he believes the number of people duped is likely a lot higher because the data only counts people who reported their rip off.

Many won’t, he said, because they’re embarrassed or don’t know to do so.

Collins said in 2019, one Utah reported sending away her life savings, and then some.

“We had a person here who gave a fraudster overseas around $400,000 of her own money, then did a reverse mortgage on her home,” Collins said. “(She) then took out another $200,000 of her retirement funds to pay this fraudster – all thinking that she was in love – that she was, you know, eventually going to get married to this person.”

Alida Lemming demonstrates online dating for KSL reporter Matt Gephardt. (KSL TV)

Alida Leming has been online dating for about 10 years. She said at least half of the men she meets are not who they say they are, so she wasn’t surprised by the FBI numbers.

“It’s really easy to create an identity online,” she said.

Collins provided tips to keep from becoming victimized.

  1. Always be wary of who you’re interacting with online and watch for red flags.
  2. If you start chatting with someone and they profess their love right away, refuse to meet you in person or, of course, ask for money, it’s probably a fraudster.
  3. Collins also warned not to send explicit photos to people met online. The FBI has received reports of folks being blackmailed. The crooks tell their victims to send money or the photos will be shared with your family, friends or online.

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Love: Second Biggest Scam Of 2019 In Utah