HELENA – Valentine’s Day is two weeks away and some are turning to the internet for help finding love. We’re taking a look at some of the risks of online dating — as well as the story of one prominent Montanan who was a victim to this type of scam.
We’ve all seen them — commercials for an online dating service — and there are even dating apps right on your phone. They all claim to help you find that special person.
But scammers prey on your desire to find love and if you aren’t careful you could be looking at more than just a broken heart.
“He ended up scamming money, not only this woman in Indiana, but two women in Ohio and we’re talking about over $100,000 that they willingly gave to him,” said Montana Attorney General Tim Fox.
Fox was a victim of an online dating scam a few years ago when a woman in Indiana was looking for love online. She came across a profile that was using Fox’s photos.
“They made a whole new profile if you will of a guy named John Tony Hagen,” Fox said.
But the man on the other side of the screen was not the attorney general — or a man named John Tony Hagen.
“It was a Nigerian national, a 44-year-old man,” Fox recalled. “He gave stories about him being on an international work trip and losing his tools or having them stolen and he needed money wired to him — which these individuals did.”
Fox and these women are not alone. The FBI estimates that Americans lost more than $82 million in 2014 to these types of online dating scams. Fox has some tips for folks who do venture into the world of online dating.
“You want to stay close to home and you certainly want to be very careful. You never want to share more information than you need to — certainly don’t share any financial, banking information, Social Security number and those kinds of things,” Fox said.
Ultimately, online dating can be a great tool, just be aware of the risks. Fox reminds everyone of one thing that could save you a lot of heartache. The man who was using Tim Fox’s photos was later identified as Kazeem Owonla and was arrested on felony charges.