Mr. Right? Or are you being 'catfished?'

Don't Waste Your Money

Football star Manti Te'o has brought the word "catfishing" into the popular vernacular. 

While the term may be new to many, this scam is not: it's been luring people into opening their heart and giving up money for almost 10 years.

If you're single and looking for a partner, or recently divorced, you may turn to an online dating site.

But Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is warning that just this year, in 2013, several dozen Ohio women have been victimized by what are known as "sweetheart scams," "romance scams," or "catfishing."

Local Woman Falls Victim

Cindy, a Cincinnati woman who asked me not to use her last name, told me a few years back she was hoping to meet a good man on a dating website. One day, she did.

"An attractive man started talking with me. He was in Africa on business, and would be moving to the United States," she said.

"Andrew" said he was a globe trotting businessman. And Cindy tells me she thought she had found Mr Right.

"He started writing to me daily," she said. She started falling in love.

But a few weeks into their online relationship, Andrew told her he needed help, before he could come see her.

"He said 'I'm having a bad day. The shipment I ordered has been seized by customs. Cindy, here's where you can help me,'" she said.

Andrew said he would be back in business if Cindy just cashed some checks for him. "I have some money orders, but they won't let me cash them," he explained, saying he would mail them to her to cash. She would then wire him some money is return.

She Figures it Out

Starting to get suspicious, she did some online searching. Cindy's heart fell. She told me, "I spotted the same guy on another website."

Her "Andrew" appeared on other dating sites, but his name was "Frank" or "Mark" or "Ken." He was one popular dude.

Though heartbroken, all Cindy lost was her hope. Others have not been so fortunate.

Barb Sluppick and Rhonda McGregor wrote a book and set up a website called "Romance," after being duped by similar scam artists.

"We have had people who lost their houses, their cars, their jobs. Because they are so into this person they would do anything," they said.

These good looking dream dates? Sluppick and McGregor say they're actually innocent clothing models. Andrew's photo was actually stolen from a modeling website in Hawaii.

Dating websites put up warnings about scams, but its often in fine print.

And when someone emails you a line like this one Cindy received: "I don't have anyone else I can trust. I thought this was about us. I need you, I'm crying...." normally reasonable people can do unreasonable things.

Red Flags to Watch For

The women at "Romance Scams" say watch for these red flags:

A foreigner, or traveling businessman, who gives little personal information, may post with grammatical errors, and always has an excuse why you can't yet meet in person.

Attorney General Mike DeWine says never fall in love with someone you've never met, so you don't have your heart broken, and you waste your money.

Don't Waste Your Money is a registered Trademark of the EW Scripps Co.

"Like" John Matarese on Facebook

Follow John on Twitter (@DWYM)

Print this article Back to Top