Fool for love? BBB offers tips to avoid Valentine's Day scams - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Fool for love? BBB offers tips to avoid Valentine's Day scams

ScamTracker (Courtesy: BBB) ScamTracker (Courtesy: BBB)

On the eve of Valentine's Day, Better Business Bureau is alerting consumers about finding a scam instead of love online. 

New dating websites are cropping up online all the time, which BBB says is creating a massive and growing problem. 

BBB told News4 that roughly 1 million people have been victimized by online romance fraud scams.

The scams add up to roughly $1 billion in losses in the last three years, and that's only the people and money BBB are aware of since many victims are too embarrassed to report they've been made a fool. 

"Everybody wants to have that love relationship and have someone they can be themselves with and just feel desired, and that's what these fraudsters play on," says BBB spokesperson Brandi Zaccardi. "They work on the relationship over a period of time, getting you to trust them and then they start learning about your personal life, your likes, family and eventually they start going more for your wallet."

The BBB is calling on social media and online dating sites to do more to screen users and remove scammer profiles. 

Worried your online lover is a scam artist? 

BBB offers the following tips for daters to avoid being caught in a romance scam: ·    

  • Protect your identity and your wallet. Scammers prefer prepaid cards and money transfers. Never send money or any personal information to someone you've never met in person. Visiting with someone via a video call doesn't mean they're not a scammer. Also, be cautious to not reveal any personal information or do anything you might regret later when using video applications. Some scammers use software to record video calls and then use it to extort a money from victims. Don't succumb to pleas of a financial crisis. ·     
  • Think before going from public to private. Be hesitant if the conversation moves from a monitored site like social media or a dating site to a more private form of communication like email or instant messaging. This strategy might be a way for the scammer to draw you in without other people interfering. ·   
  • Do your research. Pour over the profile image and description. If it sounds too good to be true, verify it. You can perform a reverse image search to see if the profile photo has been used on other websites. You can also copy a portion of their biography and search to see if it's been used on other sites. Scammers often use the same profile details and photos on multiple sites. · 
  • Ask for details and get specific. Request other forms of identification, like a photo of them holding a piece of paper with their username on it. Ask specific questions about details in their profile. If they claim to be a military member, ask for their official military address as those all end in Scammers likely will make excuses for why they can't provide you more information. ·     
  • Pay attention to communication. Be wary of bad grammar and misspelled words. No one is perfect, but if mistakes often are repeated, it may suggest they aren't from where they claim. Be on guard for use of pet names or discussions of marriage early in correspondence. ·       

If you feel like you've been victimized, report it to BBB's ScamTracker.

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