Romance is in the air, and it is scamming residents out of their hard-earned dollars.

Guadalupe County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Sgt. Robert Murphy said investigators are seeing an uptick in reports from residents who thought they found the one online or through email. Unfortunately, that person was only in it for the money.

“The Guadalupe County Sheriff’s Office would like to take this opportunity to remind our citizens that there are some very unscrupulous people out there who love nothing better than taking advantage of us,” he said in a news release. “A new ‘dating’ or ‘romance’ scam has shown up targeting the citizens of our county.”

The scammer makes contact with the potential victim through online resources and earns their trust as a friend or partner, Murphy said.

“They will attempt to call or text the victim using a service called VOIP, which is Voice Over Internet Protocol. When they use VOIP, they can ‘spoof’ local numbers and pretend to be from anywhere in the United States,” he said. “They will send a photograph at times, which is most likely not the person who has been communicating with the victim in an attempt to make their scam more believable.”

The scammers are often from African, Eastern European or Middle Eastern countries and use VIOP to pretend to be American, Murphy said.

“They always have some sort of sad story in an attempt to elicit sympathy from their potential victims,” he said. “This ranges from they have been robbed of all their money, they are being held for ransom, they have family members in dire need of medical care, or their job requires a ‘down-payment’ or ‘bond’ to allow them to travel out of their country.”

After the first request for money from their target is fulfilled, the scammer continues to ask for more, Murphy said.

The victim is then requested to send the money through wire transfers, gift card numbers, money cards or other similar forms of payment, Murphy said.

One clue to quickly identifying if it is a scam or not is by taking a look at the grammar and spelling in the email and texts, Murphy said.

“People who do not speak American English will use words such as ‘colour,’ barrister, solicitor, and U.S. dollars,” he said.

Investigators are warning community members to keep an eye out for any types of potential scams that could fall under these parameters.

“The Guadalupe County Sheriff’s Office wants the citizens of Guadalupe County to know that these people are out there who will take advantage of them,” Murphy said. “We ask that anyone who might think that they are being scammed to please contact their local law enforcement agency before they send any money to anyone.”

To report a scam, call the Guadalupe County Sheriff’s Office at 830-379-1224 or the Seguin Police Department at 830-379-2123.

Felicia Frazar is the managing editor of the Seguin Gazette. You can e-mail her at felicia.frazar@seguingazette.com .

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