Millions of people have tried online dating, and some even find love and a long-term relationship. Others find heartbreak and an empty wallet.
Scammers target online dating sites looking for vulnerable targets. They create dating profiles with fake photos and persona that appear real. Some scammers even create a fake Facebook or other social media profile to embellish the persona.
So how can you tell a scammer from an actual love connection? The BBB warns of the following signs that an online love is actually a scammer:
• Shortly after meeting through the dating service, the person wants to ditch the dating service and communicate through personal email or instant messages.
• After a few communications, the person declares their love.
• The person claims to be from the U.S. but is overseas traveling, working or in military service.
• The person makes plans to meet in person, but a traumatic event or business deal occurs suddenly to interfere.
It often takes weeks or months for the scammer to reach the ultimate goal – getting the victim to send money. Other scammers will ask for money right away. The reasons given often include:
• Travel and hotel bills (to visit the victim, a sick parent or child, etc.).
• Medical emergencies or hospital bills for a child or relative.
• Visas or other official documents needed while overseas.
Scammers will ask for a wire transfer, which is like sending cash. The result is that the person you thought you knew disappears along with your money.
The BBB cautions against sending wire transfers to anyone you haven’t met in person. Following this advice may not save you from heartbreak, but it will protect your assets from those with malicious intent.
If you’ve been scammed while using an online dating service, you can file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center ( www.ic3.gov), the website for the partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C). You can also file a complaint with the FTC at www.ftc.gov/complaint and the Washington State Office of the Attorney General at www.atg. wa.gov/FileAComplaint.aspx.
Erin T. Dodge, BBB Editor