Single for Valentine's Day? BBB helps romantics spot sweetheart scammers
Did you know that Canadians lost $17 million to romance scams in 2016*? With Valentine's Day just around the corner, BBB is cautioning singles who are searching for that special someone to protect their hearts, and wallets, from catphishers.
How does it work?
- Catphishing is when someone attempts to establish a romantic relationship with you by gaining your affection and trust, only to lure you out of your hard-earned money with tall tales of hard luck stories and ask you for money, usually through wire money transfers.
- Once the catphisher receives the money, they usually disappear without a trace, or continue to ask for more money, but repeatedly make excuses not to meet in person.
- In the end, the relationship is a hoax and the scammer is preying on the emotions, trust and affections of others in order for financial gain.
"People who aren't in a relationship can feel lonely or excluded from this holiday, and some may turn to online dating sites to make a quick connection with someone," says Mary O'Sullivan-Andersen, president and CEO of BBB Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay. "But there are fraudulent Cupids out there waiting to take advantage of the kindness and generosity of others in an attempt to win their trust and affections. If you're suspicious about the true intentions of your Valentine, educate yourself on the signs of a catphishing scam to ensure you won't be left broken-hearted and empty-handed."
Here are BBB's Top 10 Red Flags for Romance Scams:
- Too hot to be true - Pay attention to vast age differences. If you're a smashing 65 and you're approached by a tantalizing 20-something, it's mostly likely a red flag. Be aware that catphishers often refrain from using their own photos.
- In a hurry to get off of the site - In order to lower their risk of getting caught, catphishers will be anxious to leave the website but continue contact through email, instant messaging, phone calls or other private forms of direct contact.
- Dropping the "L" word too soon - Catphishers are in a hurry to win your affections and will tell you they love you sooner than you expect or are comfortable with. They may also tell you they've never felt this way before and are anxious to plan a future together as a sign of long-term commitment.
- They'll talk about trust regularly - Catphishers will talk about how important trust is to them in an attempt to prepare you for a request for money that they will promise to pay back.
- Avoiding meeting in person - Since catphishers are using fake identities, they will use numerous excuses not to meet in person so as to avoid questions, suspicions or getting caught.
- They live far away - Catphishers will often claim to live far away to avoid meeting, but may agree to meet if you foot the bill for their trip. Never give or wire money to someone you've never met or don't know well.
- Working out of town - Yet another excuse not to meet or verify their identity.
- Broken English - If your Valentine says they are from your hometown, or close by, but have poor grammar or spelling chances are they're not telling you the truth.
- Hard luck stories - Catphishers may hint of financial struggles such as their heat being cut off or their car being stolen in an attempt to gain your sympathy and money.
- Asking for money - Catphishers are clever and manipulative. If a new love interest asks you for money, or asks you to send or receive money, the answer should always be no, even if you feel close to them.
*Data collected from BBB Scam Tracker, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, and information from BBB's Top 10 Scams of 2016 sponsors.
For tips you can trust, visit bbb.org.
Leah Brownridge, Media and Corporate Communications Specialist
BBB Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay
For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2015, people turned to BBB more than 172 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 5.3 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. There are local,independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay, which was founded in 1954 and garners more than one million instances of service annually.
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