BATON ROUGE, LA – As Valentine’s Day approaches – Attorney General Jeff Landry is warning Louisiana citizens that scammers use dating sites, social networking sites, or chat rooms to meet potential victims. These “sweetheart” scammers typically use fake photos and identities to form online relationships, and eventually convince people to send money in the name of love.

“An online love interest who asks for money could be a fraudster, so I encourage all Louisiana citizens to use vigilance,” said General Landry. “Consumers can avoid heartbreak and protect their finances if they learn how to identify a scammer looking for the next target.”

General Landry advises the following tips when engaging in online relationships:

Be careful what you send. Scammers can use inappropriate photos and personal information to extort you.
· Do your research. Use reverse image search to see if his or her photos have been stolen from someone else’s real profile.
· Take it slow. Ask lots of questions and beware if the individual seems too perfect or professes love quickly.
· Verify in person. Become suspicious if the individual promises to meet in person but then always comes up with an excuse to cancel. Always meet in public places, tell your friends where that is, bring your phone, and protect your personal information.
· Never Send Money. Even if their stories sound convincing – do not pay for new flings’ transportation costs, medical fees, government documents, and/or losses from bad business deals.

If you suspect that you or someone you know has fallen victim to a romance scam, contact your local law enforcement as soon as possible. Report your experience to the online dating site, the
FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, or General Landry’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 800-351-4889.

Coming soon, the attorney's general office seeks to provide a mechanism by which to take online payments for collections.