By Dale Dixon/ BBB’s trust evangelist
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, so love is in the air. I have a co-worker who recently set up an account on an online dating site. Now, my co-worker is being contacted by people from all around the world. This seems to me to be very unsafe. Do the online dating sites offer protection against scam artists?
Please share the following information from Better Business Bureau with anyone involved in an online dating site – or considering it. Scammers play to our emotions. By invoking fear, anxiety or hope, they convince us to fall for cons we wouldn’t rationally consider. Because there are few emotions stronger than falling in love, romance scams are particularly lucrative.
How the Scam Works:
You sign up for an online dating site. You receive a message from someone (usually a man contacting a woman) who claims to be working abroad or serving in the military and stationed overseas.
After exchanging a message or two through the dating website, he requests that you communicate through email or a chat service. You agree and start exchanging emails and photos. You even become friends on Facebook.
The photos are real, but the profile isn’t. Scam artists steal photos and make up profile information.
Soon, you two are communicating daily. Your new love interest tells you that he wants to use his upcoming leave to visit you. There’s just one problem. He doesn’t have money for the trip. He asks if you will lend it to him, and you agree. But after you send the cash, you find that your new sweetheart has suddenly stopped communicating. (Or maybe he sticks around long enough to ask for another loan.)
Tips to Spot a Romance Scam:
Online dating is a great way to meet “the one.” Unfortunately, it’s also easy to encounter scammers. Be wary of anyone who:
- Asks to talk or chat on an outside email or messaging 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. In addition to the military ploy described above, scammers also pretend to be temporarily working overseas or serving as missionaries.
- 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. Also check to see when they joined. Recent pages are another red flag.
- Asks you 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 you to wire money. The first wire transfer is small but the requests keep coming and growing. Or he may ask for airfare to come for a visit.
- Sends you emails containing questionable links to third-party websites. Third-party links can contain malware that’s designed to steal personal information off your computer.
Bottom line: Use reputable dating sites you’ve researched at bbb.org and never wire money to a newfound love.