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BBB: Don't let love blind you to scammers

Posted at 10:42 AM, Feb 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-11 13:35:32-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX — Love is in the air as many will celebrate Valentine’s Day later this week. For those who may find themselves still “looking for love,” online dating and social media have made it easier than ever to meet new people to date. Unfortunately, it has also made it easier for scammers to do their work.

Con artists create compelling backstories and they fake full-fledged identities, then trick an unsuspecting heart into falling for someone who does not exist. An online romance scam defrauds consumers by using fake profiles on dating sites and social media, often using pictures from a real unsuspecting person, and cultivating an online relationship with the victim.

Usually the scammer pretends to be in the military or doing business abroad. They create elaborate stories about who they are and why they cannot meet in person, until they inevitably fake an emergency and ask you to send them a large amount of money.

These scams can be extremely costly. Several south Texas consumers have lost thousands to a scammer online posing as a romantic interest, including a Houston victim who lost $100,000.

Often, after victims realize they have been defrauded and confront the scammer, the scammer will admit the ploy and say they fell in love during the scam, and then use that sentiment to continue getting money from the victim.

To keep from becoming a victim to this scam, the BBB recommends that you know what tactics the scammer will likely use. Typically:

  • They are fast movers. They try to move the conversations to email, messenger, or phone. They also begin professing their love quickly, and speaking of a future together.
  • They avoid meeting in person. Be wary of someone who always has an excuse to postpone meeting. If the fraudster claims to own or work for an overseas business, you can always call the U.S. Embassy in that country and ask them to verify the company and provide background for you.
  • They use fake photos and copied text. Check their photographs & text. If they seem too good-looking to be true, you can reverse-search an image to see if it is connected to other names on other sites. Many scammers are dealing with multiple victims at a time, so they will likely stick to a script. Search any unusual or suspicious phrases in a profile or email.

Of course, it is always best to avoid sending money to people you do not know. While this may seem like common sense, most romance scams revolve around elaborate stories that explain why they won’t be able to meet you for quite a while. However, if someone you haven’t met in person starts asking for money, it is most likely a romance scam. These con artists often pretend to be U.S. citizens working overseas or members of the armed services. The State Department recommends sending money through their OCS Trust, which requires recipients to provide a photo ID to collect money.

For more information on online romance scams, visit www.bbb.org.