Don’t Let Scammers Break Your Account or Your Heart

by Attorney General Josh Stein | Spring 2024 Living Power Magazine

heart broken

Relationships bring joy and connection—but unfortunately, scammers love to prey on other people’s hope and happiness. They are adept at using sweetheart scams to rob people of their hard-earned money. The “sweetheart scam” is one of the most widely utilized modes of preying upon a victim for financial gain. In 2020, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received reports from 6,817 elderly victims who experienced over $281 million in losses to confidence fraud and romance scams. In 2023, we received 71 sweetheart scam complaints representing more than $2.3 million in total losses.

People make new friends and and dates online—that is part of life in 2024. But if you’re connecting with someone online, be careful. The person on your screen might be an imposter. In sweetheart scams, scammers often pretend to be someone you already know or someone you’re likely to connect with because of their appearance or shared interests. They’ll use these connections to start to form a bond with you, but only to steal your money.

Often, the person will claim to live overseas and have a good reason for why they are unable to see you in person. They might say they are a US citizen, but they are stationed on an oil rig, a military base, or other convenient excuse. They are overly friendly and often quick to profess their love or admiration, and they’ll message you often and be very communicative.

They won’t ask you for money at first. They’ll wait a few months until they’ve established the relationship, and then they’ll tell you about a problem they’re having that prevents them from coming back to the country. They might be dealing with a medical emergency, have a family member with health issues, not be able to afford lights, or some other problem. Whatever the reason, it will require money to solve, and they’ll ask you to send it. They’ll make promises about visiting you and getting married once they have the money and can resolve their problem.

Have your guard up when you’re talking to people online

Try to verify who they are before you start communicating with them. Remember that if an online love interest ever asks you for money, it’s almost always a scam. And if they ask you to pay with a gift card, wire transfer, or through cryptocurrency, it’s certainly a scam. Don’t make that payment or investment.

Unfortunately, sweetheart scams can be a gateway to other scam attempts. If a scammer can get money from you once, they will likely try to get money from you again. It’s important to put a stop to these scams the moment you become concerned—talk to someone you trust before you send money, or call your bank or my office at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.

Sweetheart scams can be especially cruel because they don’t just target your wallet—they target your heart. It might be hard to talk about being the victim of a scam because you’re dealing with grief and heartbreak, as well. But scammers try to target all of us, and there’s no reason to be embarrassed over the actions of a criminal. Let my office know if you think you or someone you know has been the victim of a sweetheart scam by calling us at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or online at NCDOJ.gov/complaint.

Don’t let a scammer break your bank account or your heart.

Bennett Place | Durham NC

Docent Fred Tetterton gives tour
Bennett Place docent Fred Tetterton talks to NCRGEA’s District 4 members about the events during the largest surrender of Confederate forces that ended military actions during the Civil War. 

With a chorus of thousands of cicadas singing in the background, 47 NCRGEA members from District 4 toured the site where the last surrender of a major Confederate army in the American Civil War, Bennett Place.

The tour, organized by District 4’s Community Advisory Board (CAB) and coordinated by co-chair’s Ed McBride and Regi Taylor, was part of NCRGEA’s CAB Community Engagement program.

Ed McBride
District 4 co-chair Ed McBride (standing), talks with NCRGEA members during lunch at the district’s recent Community Engagement gathering at Bennett Place in Durham.


Members learned about the Bennett family and how their home became the site of Confederate General Johnston’s surrender of more than 89,000 soldiers to Union General Sherman effectively ended the war. This all took place after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia.

Members watch movie
NCRGEA District 4 members watch a film at Bennett Place Museum about the surrender of the largest Confederate force during the district’s recent Community Engagement event.


If you are an NCRGEA member and have an idea on what your district could do, contact Deryl Davis Fulmer, NCRGEA Community Liaison. You can find out about activities under the “Districts” webpage.

Deryl speaks with members
NCRGEA’s Deryl Davis-Fulmer, standing, talks with District 4 members during lunch at the district’s recent Community Engagement gathering at Bennett Place in Durham. Bennett Place was the site of the largest surrender of Confederate forces and marked the end of military actions during the Civil War.

Local Outreach | District 5 @ Greenville NC

June 11 @ 10:00 am 11:00 am

NCRGEA is inviting all retired public servants, both state and local, to join us for refreshments and a discussion of issues that affect public service retirees of North Carolina.

We’ll talk about current legislative issues, retiree issues, and retirement benefits available to all public service retirees. We’ll also give away a $25 gift card.

This is a great opportunity to meet and speak with other retirees who share the same concerns you have and to talk to Josephine, Director of Insurance Services at NCRGEA with your questions.

Location:

Pitt County Council On Aging | 4551 County Home Rd / Room #110 | Greenville NC 27858

Interested in attending? Call 919-834-4652 or email josephine@ncrgea.com.

(919) 834-4652

View Organizer Website

Local Outreach | District 7 @ Clayton NC

June 6 @ 10:30 am 11:30 am

NCRGEA is inviting all retirees from public service, both state and local, to join us for refreshments and a discussion of issues that affect public service retirees of North Carolina.

We’ll talk about current legislative issues, retiree issues, and retirement benefits available to all public service retirees.

This is a great opportunity to meet and speak with other retirees who share the same concerns you have and to talk to Josephine, Outreach Coordinator at NCRGEA, with your questions.

Registration is FREE: Click on the button at the top or use this link.

Location:

Clayton Community Center | 715 Amelia Church Rd. / Activity Room #111 | Clayton NC 27520

Interested in attending? Call 800-356-1190 or email Josephine@NCRGEA.com.

(919) 834-4652

View Organizer Website