Don’t let an Internet cupid ruin your Valentine’s Day

  
     
February 10, 2017

BBB warns online users of dating scams that could break hearts and wallets 

Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love, an entire day devoted to showering your significant other with flowers, heart-shaped candy and grand romantic gestures. And while many people successfully find love online, Better Business Bureau serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin warns of online dating scams that could cost you your hard-earned money, all in the name of love.  

Called “catfishing," the scammer builds a relationship with you and eventually gains your trust. Scammers typically create fake profiles on social media sites, dating sites or apps using pictures of real people and then assuming a false identity. After a few days or weeks of back-and-forth messaging, the scammer starts asking for personal information or money. In some cases, the scammer resorts to extortion and threats if you don’t pay them money or help launder money.

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), romance scams conned victims nationwide out of more than $200 million in 2015. In Texas, of those who reported this scam, victims reported losing $260,850 to BBB Scam Tracker last year. Most victims reported being contacted via email and sent money using a wire transfer service. 

To avoid any heartbreak, BBB warns of these red flags in a catfish scam:

  • Pressure to leave the dating site. The scammer immediately suggests moving the conversation to text message or your personal email. Also, watch out for profiles that message you immediately after being matched, mainly on dating apps.
  • Hasty expressions of love. They express instant feelings of love, although they have very little knowledge of you.
  • Change of plans. They make plans to visit, but are unexpectedly prevented by a traumatic event or a business deal gone sour. Some may say they’re out of the country for business or on deployment.
  • Requests for money. They make multiple requests for more money, and may even test you and ask for a little at first, and then continue to ask for larger amounts. In some cases, the scammer sends you money and requests you transfer it to another account. If it’s a sudden major expense, that’s a red flag. Don’t wire money if you’re asked to cover travel costs, medical emergencies, hotel bills, hospital bills for a child or relative, or visas and other official documents.

 

For those in search of love online, BBB offers the following tips:

  • Never wire money. It is difficult to get money back from people who may be misrepresenting themselves once it has been sent through a wire transfer service.
  • Put safety first. Avoid putting too much personal information on your dating site or social media profiles, such as home address, work information or phone number. Also, avoid giving personal or financial information to online love interests, as it could be a phishing or identity theft attempt.
  • Take the time to research individuals. If you see any red flags in your communication with someone, search his or her name through search engines and on social media sites. Copy and paste portions of your emails into search engines to see if they have been associated with scams. 

Media Contacts:

Austin

Erin Dufner
512.206.2805
edufner@austin.bbb.org 

Bryan/College Station 

Bill McGuire
979.777.1263
bmcguire@bryan.bbb.org

Corpus Christi/Victoria

Kelly Trevino
361.945.7352
ktrevino@corpuschristi.bbb.org

Permian Basin 

Heather Massey
432.741.2592
hmassey@permianbasin.bbb.org

San Antonio/Laredo

Miguel Segura
210.260.9843
msegura@sanantonio.bbb.org

Waco 

Adam Price
254.449.1567
aprice@waco.bbb.org