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FraudWatch: Online dating scams - KTVQ.com | Q2 | Continuous News Coverage | Billings, MT

FraudWatch: Online dating scams

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We’ve all seen commercials for online dating services, and there are even dating apps right on your phone. 

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. 

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox was an unwitting participant in an online dating scam a few years ago. A woman in Indiana was looking for love online, and came across a profile that was using photos of Fox.

“They made a whole new profile of a guy named John Tony Hagen,” Fox told MTN News.

But the man on the other side of the screen wasn't Tim Fox, nor was it John Tony Hagen. 

“It was a Nigerian national, a 44-year old man," Fox said. "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.”

One of the scammer's victims says she lost nearly $150,000 after falling for the scam.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that Americans lost more than $82 million dollars in 2014 to these types of online dating scams. 

If you do venture into the world of online dating, Fox offered some tips: 

“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.”

He added, "If you don’t know someone, you shouldn’t be giving them money or gifts.”

If you think you are the target of such a scam, you can have it checked out anonymously by contacting the Montana Office of Consumer Protection.

The man who was using the photos of Fox was eventually identified as Kazeem Owonla, and he was arrested on felony charges.

According to the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department, sentencing for Owonla included an incarceration in the Kosciusko County Jail of 36 months, with 26 month suspended.

Owonla was also ordered by the court to pay victim’s restitution, cost and various fines in excess of $16,000 prior to his release from jail, according to Kosciusko County Prosecuting Attorney Daniel Hampton.

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