From news reports
Rock River Current
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ROCKFORD — Valentine’s Day love is in the air, and so are scams.
Three in 10 U.S. adults have used online dating via an app or website in search of a romantic partner, according to a recent Pew Research Center study.
“Cyberspace is full of scammers eager to take advantage of lonely hearts,” Dennis Horton, director of the Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau, said in a news release. “So, seeking romantic bliss online can have major downsides, not just the loss of money, but serious emotional injury as well.”
People of all ages and demographics fall prey to the scams, Horton said. But people ages 55-65 and older fall victim most often, according to the BBB 2020 Scam Tracker Risk Report.
Here’s how the con works: A potential mate claims to live in another part of the country or to be abroad for business or military deployment. Then, after they have built trust, an emergency will pop up and they’ll ask for money. They’ll promise to pay it back, but that will never happen, Horton said in the news release. Instead, they will keep asking for more until their victim realizes they’re being scammed.
“In the four years from 2016 to 2020, Federal Trade Commission numbers show victims lost over $300 million,” Horton said.
Tips to avoid being scammed
• Never send money to strangers. A request for money is a “tip off to the rip off,” the BBB says. Never give money to someone you haven’t met in person. Be especially wary if they ask you to send funds through wire transfer, money orders or prepaid cards, as these types of payment cannot be returned. Cut off contact immediately with anyone who requests money online.
• Use reverse image search. Scammers can create very convincing profiles by using photos stolen from other users. If you suspect an account is fake, use reverse image search to see if their pictures are used on other profiles.
• Don’t believe sad stories. Victims of romance scams are often pulled in by stories that tug on the heartstrings, making them want to help the scammer or their family. Please resist the urge to send them money, no matter how urgent the situation may seem.
• Take it slow. A red flag is someone who wants to get serious very quickly and not meet first. Take your time to get to know your match and ensure it is who they say they are.
• Investigate. If you use a dating service, check out business reviews and ratings on BBB.org first.
Source: Better Business Bureau
Have a happy and safe Valentine’s Day.