BBB cautions against heart-breaking scammers this Valentine’s season

Better Business Bureau advises caution in online dating pursuits this Valentine’s season to avoid being scammed by romance

FRESNO, CALIF. – Although love is in the air, anyone looking for a romantic partner this Valentine’s Day season should steer clear of having their hearts, and wallets, broken by scammers.

Now that the season of love is here, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) announced reports from victims conned into losing their money through dating scams on social media. Even if someone doesn’t use dating apps, social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram have made for a noteworthy tool for scammers to target individuals; and the BBB has recommendations on how to identify and avoid them.

“Many have turned to online dating and social media over the past three years to find love and meet new people,” the BBB stated via news release. “Unfortunately, these platforms have not only made it easier than ever to meet new people and find dates, but have also made it easier to be scammed as well.”

First, the scam starts with the obvious: an individual is scrolling through their social media pages. The person might get a direct message from an unknown user, who seems perfect, and conversation will follow. This person is likely to say they are overseas or in the military and might be in a hurry to start a future together but hesitant to meet. Also, they may claim a lot of similar interests as the victim, like being a fellow pet lover or single parent. As a result, the innocent person may start falling victim to the scammer’s plan.

Soon, the scammer will be quick to profess they are head-over-heels in love with their victim, without even meeting them in person. Soon after, a dramatic emergency will seem to appear where the scammer needs financial assistance. They may also share sad stories to tug at heartstrings. According to the BBB, this “love interest” might suddenly need money for their sick child; and claims that the victim can help by wiring funds or sending prepaid gift cards. Additionally, once this money is sent, it is gone for good. 

“The person you fell in love with doesn’t exist,” the BBB stated via news release. “To make matters worse, con artists will repeat the emergency scenarios until you realize the scam of run out of money – whichever comes first.”

To avoid these scams, the BBB has four recommendations: know the signs of romance scams, never send money or personal information to someone unknown, ask lots of questions and do some research.

“Any one of these tactics is a big red flag,” the BBB stated. “If you notice similarities with someone who has messaged you on social media, think twice about your relationship.”

Additionally, refrain from handing out credit card or bank information to strangers, wiring money and sharing a PIN code. When meeting someone online, ask specific questions about their profile details and pay attention to their answers – if they lie, it is unlikely that they will be able to keep their story straight. Also, doing a reverse image search of the person’s profile picture can show if that photo is being used elsewhere online, as scammers often use the same stolen photos for fake profiles.

Since 2020, there has been a 13% increase in romance scams, according to the BBB. In 2021, the bureau received 276 reports on romance scams across North America. In 2022, the reported number more than doubled within the first two months of the year compared to the prior year.

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