Valentine's Day may be a day of love and romance but officials are warning it can also be a big day for online scammers.
San Diego County Deputy District Attorney Paul Greenwood held a public seminar through the San Diego County Credit Union on Wednesday, called 'Romance Scams and Love Fraud.'
“I’ve done some of this online dating,” said Don MacMenus, a seminar attendee. “You got to watch out for scammers. Surprisingly enough a person says they’re one way and they’re completely different when you meet them.”
A 'sweetheart scam' is when the suspect tricks the victim through romantic gestures, either in person or online, into giving away money or identity information.
According to ScamWatch, nearly $91 million were lost in online scams in 2017 alone.
Lisa Fitzpatrick attended the seminar because some of her friends had been conned out of their money online.
“They were hurt,” Fitzpatrick said. “They were ashamed to come and talk to me afterwards.”
Greenwood said there are signs you should look for in your loved ones that might mean they are victims of online fraud.
"Changes in behavior, or the scammer might be trying to isolate the victim and they might stop calling friends and family as much,” Greenwood said. “Look for changes in spending habits. How often do you go to the bank or credit union and withdraw five thousand dollars in cash?”
Other red flags might be a victim asking others for money when it would normally be out of character.
"They might ask for five hundred dollars because they suddenly can't pay their utility bill," Greenwood said.
If you think someone is being scammed in San Diego, call the elder abuse hotline at 1 (800) 510-2020, or contact the San Diego Police Department.