February 14th and the days leading up to it are popular with both romantics and scammers. Unfortunately, if someone sounds too good to be true, they probably are. It’s natural to be sentimental at this time of year but be aware of some common ploys used by people who want your money.
Romance Fraud Is Expensive
In the U.S., romance frauds account for the highest financial losses of all internet-facilitated crimes, the FBI reports.
Building Trust, Asking For Money
Romance scams are not isolated to the Valentine season; in fact, they may take months to play out. Where other scams try to panic you with threats of delinquent tax bills, jail, etc., romance scams typically try to create trust, usually through a compelling online profile of someone who seems legitimate. Once the scammer has built a rapport with the target, they will ask for money for reasons such as:
• Visiting the target
• Helping a sick relative
Other Avenues Of Attack
Some scammers try less-direct ruses to get your money, including:
• Phony florists asking for your credit card information
• E-cards directing you to suspicious sites
Malicious links to fraudulent websites are common with romance scams.
Protect Your Heart (And Your Wallet)
When it comes to the Internet age, unfortunately ‘innocent until proven guilty’ doesn’t always apply outside the courts. When you don’t know exactly to whom you’re talking, you need to be skeptical. Here are some tips to avoid being scammed this Valentine’s Day:
• Don’t immediately provide personal information such as your home address, work details, or educational background
• Do a Google search to verify if someone is who they say they are; a person without an online presence is a red flag
• Don’t use passwords with publicly known information for online dating profiles
• Ask friends and family if they think it seems legitimate
• Don’t respond to any requests for money
• Trust your instincts; if it seems odd, it probably is
What To Do If You’re A Victim
If you believe you are the victim of a romance scam, report it to the dating site (if applicable) and file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.