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Scammers prey on emotions, and loneliness is one of the primary reasons this scam is effective. Victims are typically recently widowed or vulnerable.

Another emotion is the fear of not having sufficient funds to last for a lifetime. The person they have met portrays him or herself as financially sound and makes claims of love and support.

Common scenarios

The romantic partner will give many possible reasons for being out of the country and needing money, such as:

Being in the military and trying to get home.

On an oil rig and needs money to replace a broken part or to pay workers.

Trying to collect an inheritance and needs money for taxes, fees or other charges.

Family member needs help with medical expenses.

Red flags

Beware if the friend:

  1. Asks that money be sent to an unknown person, saying they are a friend and will get them the money.
  2. Asks that money be sent via Western Union, MoneyGram, prepaid cards like Visa, Mastercard or GreenDot, or gift cards like iTunes or Amazon.
  3. Asks that money be sent to a country other than where the friend is located, saying that the money is going to a “holding” or “correspondent” bank for no valid reason.
  4. Gives an account name (either a company or an individual) that does not match his or her name, or is a name that is not easily verified.
  5. Cannot provide verifiable information (address, Social Security number, etc.).
  6. States that you are the last resource.
  7. Provides outrageous reasons for needing the money.
  8. Says he or she has been involved in some sort of accident.
  9. Cannot receive emergency treatment until a medical facility is paid.
  10. Says he or she is on the verge of receiving a large inheritance.
  11. Needs money to pay taxes upfront or attorney’s fees.
  12. Mentions government payoffs.
  13. Promises to share his or her wealth with you or reimburse you as soon as the friend returns to the United States — but only if you can send money immediately.

Protect yourself

Be leery of people you meet over the internet, even if it’s through a trusted social media site. Remember that it is easy to impersonate someone online, including pretending to be a known friend whose information has been compromised.

If the friend requests money, ask for a copy of his or her driver’s license and/or Social Security number. Offices like Edward Jones can quickly perform additional research to verify the person’s identity. If the person refuses or cannot produce this information, chances are good that he or she is impersonating someone and is not a U.S. citizen.

Request other documentation and ask questions about the friend’s background. In this digital age, photos and documents can be easily altered, but these changes are not difficult to spot. If the information provided cannot be verified, take a step back and look at the facts.

Simply refuse to send the money. If this ends the relationship, then you will know the friend just wanted your money. Keep in mind that the scammer may become angry or try to make you feel guilty for refusing to help. This should further confirm that you were being scammed.

Confide in a family member, a trusted friend or your financial advisor. Someone who is not emotionally involved often can assess the situation more rationally.

(This article was provided by Edward Jones/Madison K. Stewart, a financial advisor in Eugene.)

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