February is a popular month for all-things romance, including scammers taking advantage of those looking for love online. Better Business Bureau urges consumers to proceed with caution before letting their hearts – and their money – get stolen.
One of the newest phrases used in conjunction with online dating is “catfish,” defined by the Urban Dictionary as “someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.”
Relationship scams can happen to anyone. You meet someone online, everything goes along great but you can’t meet yet for some reason (distance, military deployment, work travel, etc.). Suddenly your online love interest has an emergency and asks you to wire money. If you do, he or she may continue to find more reasons to ask for money from you - and disappear.
BBB and Western Union have partnered to offer tips on how to avoid relationship scams:
Be on guard. Be cautious with people you meet online, even if you correspond with them via email or phone. And be especially wary of anyone who asks you to leave the dating website immediately to continue your conversation through email or IM, as this allows fraudsters to carry out their scams without the dating site having a record of your encounter.
Be cautious if someone claims to be local but is currently out of the country. Fraudsters could be operating from overseas, making it more difficult for authorities to track them down. Never give financial account information to people you have not met in person or businesses that you don’t know.
Verify every emergency situation before sending money. Fraudsters trick their victims into sending money in a variety of ways. Sometimes they instantly express feelings of love and other times they lead victims on for a while. No matter how much your relationship might seem like the real thing, be suspicious if someone starts asking for information such as credit card, bank or government ID numbers or to send money.
For more information on scams, check out BBB Scam Stopper at bbb.org/scam.
Start With Trust. For more consumer tips or information, visit wynco.bbb.org.
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/edgarbarany/3032738208/">Edgar Barany</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a>