Valentines Day – Avoid the Romance Scam
Fact: You can be anybody you want online.
Fact: Anyone can be anybody online.
Fact: Anyone can be scammed by anyone pretending to be anybody online.
Funny thing about the internet. It seems to have distinct seasons just like the weather. For example holiday season is the season for getting scammed on deals too good to be true. Tax season is the season for identity theft and fake tax returns. And Valentine’s Day is the season for romance scams.
People want to connect with other people. And often the lonely hearts are reaching out and searching for someone special during this season of romance. But beware. That perfect, seemingly idea person that answers your personal ad may be a scammer. You need to protect yourself by not falling for an email or online chat lover.
Every year millions of men and women fall prey to lovers that seem to be exactly what they are looking for. Last year lonely hearted people reported losing $143 million to romance scams, Believe it or not this is a higher total than for any other type of scam reported to the FTC. And, according to a new FTC Data Spotlight, reports of romance scams are on the rise.
Romance scammers are professionals. They know how to pick you out of the millions of online ads and they go to work. So what is a romance scam? Its simple really. Its the person that makes contact with and quickly lures you into sending money or sharing information that they use to rip you off.
I’m talking about someone you thought was “the one.” I’m talking about people you meet online, who lavish you with attention … and then ask for money. Usually they want the money by wire transfer or gift card. They might claim they need it for a medical emergency or to come visit you , or even offers you business opportunities or investments. Then they take your money, but there’s no surgery, no visit, no business deal and no invest. Now you have a empty wallet to go with that empty heart. And if they really want to see you they will pay their own way. But that is still no guarantee they are legit.
Before we go into protecting yourself you need to be aware of something. A romance scam can be quite sophisticated and the scammer can be very patient. The scammer may take the relationship to the next level and actually meet you in person. He, or she, may spend time with you and even spend a little money on you. But this is just to get into your life. Some romance scammers have even married their victims long enough to clean out their bank account and even sell their homes right out from under them. Until you really, really know this person keep you business and financial affairs a closely held secret.
- Never send money or gifts to a sweetheart you haven’t met in person. Whatever problems they have are theirs not yours. Think about this for a second. Why is he or she sharing their troubles with someone they barely know or are trying to impress? If this happens you should smell a rat!
- Take it slowly. Ask questions and look for inconsistent answers. Check the person’s photo using your search engine’s “search by image” feature. If the same picture shows up with a different name, that’s a red flag. Another thing you can do is check romance scam websites for this new man or women in your life. Check RipandScam.com. This site has a lot of great information and even has pictures and information of known male and female romance scammers. You can also use Google images to spot romance scammers. Another place to check is Romancescamsnow.com. This site has plenty of pictures of Facebook romance scammers.
- Talk to someone about this new love interest. And pay attention if your friends or family are concerned. These people are looking out for your best interest and will more than likely let you know if something is not right.
- If you suspect a romance scam, cut off contact right away. Then report the scam to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint. Notify the dating site where you met the scammer, too. If you have been ripped off report it to your local police immediately and provide them all the information you have on the person. Remember that romance scams don’t happen overnight. These people will take their time to reel you in. Be on your toes and be aware when things don’t add up. Look for things like;
- Have you met this person fact-to-face or are are they known to you only online?
- Is that person available when you call or does it take some time for them to get back to you?
- Check where he or she says they work? Does the company actually exist? Do they actually work there?
- Google their name.
- Do they live close by or in another city or state?
- Do you get repeated excuses why you can’t visit them?
- Do they remember your name?
- Do they seem to ask a lot of probing question about your job or money?
- Do they make grand or extravagant claims about themselves?
All these are signs something is not quite right. I am not saying you may not have found Mr./Miss Right. I am saying to take it slow and be cautious. Don’t fall in love too soon. One last thing. Don’t be on alert for romance scam just because its Valentines Day. Be alert year round.
Now you know.