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Online dating can lead to romance scams

Flowers From Judy's Garden 6a00e5500815768834017d410b16ac970c-320wiValentine’s Day is coming up soon, which means scammers will be playing on the emotions of unsuspecting consumers. Because there are few emotions stronger than falling in love, romance scams are especially profitable.

Romance scams accounted for more than $80 million in losses in 2013, according to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Scammers use dating sites to find their targets. They send messages – usually to women – wooing them into new relationships. The criminals pretend to be working abroad or serving in the military overseas. After exchanging a message or two through the site, the scammer requests communication through email or a chat service. He then befriends the women on Facebook, using a fake profile.

Soon the scammer tells his new “love interest” he wants to meet her. There’s just one problem. He doesn’t have money for the trip. He asks for money but as soon as he receives it, he disappears and stops communicating.

The Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington is warning consumers to be wary of anyone who:

  • Asks to talk or chat on an outside email or message 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. This makes it easy for scammers to avoid in-person meetings and opens the door for them to ask for travel money.
  • 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 for money or credit card information. In some cases the scammer will claim an emergency, such as a sick relative or stolen wallet, and will ask for money by wire transfer. The initial amount is often small, but the requests keep coming and growing. Alternatively, he may ask for airfare to come for a visit.
  • Sends emails containing questionable links to third-party websites. Third-party links can contain malware that’s designed to steal personal information off a consumer’s computer.

Romance scammers target men and women of all ages, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said. The bureau has many resources online to help consumers stay safe.

Visit akorww.bbb.org for consumer scam alerts.

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