Consumer Alert: While looking for love online, scammers lure victims through romance and extortion scams

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HONOLULU (KHON2) – CrimeStoppers and Honolulu police have a warning for those who are online dating. Officials say beware of extortion and romance scams.

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Romance scammers will stir up the perfect storm. They’ll build up a relationship, tell a sad story, then demand money.

CrimeStoppers says in some cases they’re seeing, the con artist threatens the victim in an extortion scam.

“Once they make the victim feel comfortable, they basically just say, ‘can you send me some photos or can you do this for me?,'” said Sgt. Chris Kim, Coordinator of Honolulu CrimeStoppers.

The scammer will say they’ll expose the victim unless a ransom is paid

“They’re not going to stop pursuing and ask you for this amount of money then it just increases. You should say from the beginning, ‘I’m not paying this ransom. I’m contacting the local authorities. I’m calling the police. So if you’re a victim of this type of situation, go ahead and call police and file a police report,” said Kim.

The Better Business Bureau says romance scams are on the rise amid the pandemic.

“Right now, it’s kind of easy for them to say, ‘I can’t meet you in person, because of this,'” said Roseann Freitas, Better Business Bureau Marketplace Manager of Hawaii. “If they can’t meet you, there’s a reason they can’t meet you. More than likely, they’re not here, it’s not real and they just want to keep you dangling.”

Red flags include, the scammer asks the victim to pay for their personal expenses and wire money.

“Have somebody you trust, look at that profile, because sometimes that second set of eyes is really going to be key. One way you can check that out is to take that picture and Google it and see if it lives somewhere else on the internet, because it probably does,” Freitas said.

Victims of romance or extortion scams are advised to call the police.

For more information on how to identify romance scams, click here.

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