File Photo – Lake County Sheriff’s Office | Photo: Max Weingardt

The sheriff’s office is warning residents about ongoing cryptocurrency romance scams that they say are on the rise involving Lake County residents.

Lake County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chief Christopher Covelli said Wednesday that sheriff’s detectives have seen an increase in romance-based scams which originate on dating apps, social media apps and other communication platforms.

“These scams work by the scammer befriending victims, generally on a dating application or other social media application,” Covelli said.

The scammer will then ruse and “romance” the victim into believing they are in a legitimate relationship through regular ongoing communication with the victim, he said.

After the victim is lured into believing they are in a relationship and they can trust the other person, the scammer convinces the victim to purchase popular cryptocurrencies from legitimate cryptocurrency exchanges, such as Coinbase or Binance.

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“The victim generally does not suspect anything is wrong at this point, as they are able to see the cryptocurrency in their account,” Covelli said.

The scammer then entices the victim to believe they can make more of a profit by trading those legitimately bought cryptocurrencies to a different cryptocurrency exchange.

These secondary exchanges are often fraudulent and have websites that appear to be legitimate.

“The scammer will then tell the victim to send their cryptocurrency to this other exchange and will give them details on where to send it, which often includes a cryptocurrency ‘wallet,'” Covelli said.

Once the victim sends their cryptocurrency to the unknown cryptocurrency wallets, Covelli said it is extremely difficult to track its whereabouts or for law enforcement to develop a suspect.

Those unsure of the legitimacy of a cryptocurrency exchange should conduct research and look for reviews, the sheriff’s office said.

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“If you are unable to find any data about the exchange, it is likely fraudulent. As always, everyone should be extremely cautious of those you meet online,” Covelli said.