Love is in the air with Valentine’s Day coming up. Especially after the holidays when people can feel lonely, this is a prime time for scammers to play on the emotions of those looking for love or companionship. Because there are few emotions stronger than falling in love, romance scams are particularly lucrative.
Scammers use dating sites to find their targets. They send messages seeking relationships and grooming trust. The criminals may pretend to be working abroad or serving in the military overseas. After exchanging a message or two through the site, the scammer requests communication through email or a chat service, then befriends the victim on Facebook, using a fake profile.
Soon the scammer asks the new “love interest” to meet in person. There’s just one problem. The suitor doesn’t have money for the trip. The scammer asks for money to travel but as soon as it is received communication stops; leaving the victim out money and broken-hearted.
Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest is warning consumers to be wary of anyone who:
Asks to talk or chat on an outside email or message service. This allows fraudsters to carry out scams without the dating site having a record of the encounter.
Claims to be from this country but is currently traveling, living or working abroad. This makes it easy for scammers to avoid in-person meetings and opens the door for them to ask for travel money.
Has a suspicious Facebook profile. Scammers often use the names and photos of real people to create fake Facebook profiles. Their profiles tend to have few friends and be rife with grammatical errors. Check to see when they joined. Recent pages are another red flag.
Asks for money or credit card information. In some cases the scammer will claim an emergency, like a sick relative or stolen wallet, and will ask for money via wire transfer. The initial amount is often small, but the requests keep coming and growing. Alternatively, he may ask for airfare to come for a visit.
Sends emails containing questionable links to third-party websites. Third-party links can contain malware that’s designed to steal personal information off a consumer’s computer.
BBB reminds people to keep these situations in mind as men and women communicate online. Scammers capitalize on emotion, especially those seeking a relationship because many times they are the most vulnerable.
Anyone who feels they may be a victim of a scam should report it to their local law enforcement and with BBB Scam Tracker at bbb.org/scamtracker.
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