According to a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation (NRF), consumers are expected to spend over $18 billion on Valentine’s Day this year. While jewelry, candy, flowers, and clothing still top the list for gift givers, NRF reports that gifts of experience such as tickets to a concert or an outdoor adventure are gaining in popularity. This time of year is also a busy time for romance scammers who try to get into your wallet once they have found a place in your heart.
Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland offers these tips:
A Rose by Any Other Name - If you plan to take advantage of the convenience of online shopping, don’t be led around by your nose when looking for online deals for flowers. Photos can be deceiving, addresses can be phony, and prices can be misleading. Do your research.
A Westlake business that operates online has generated a pattern of complaints from unhappy buyers. Customers of Allyson’s Flowers (allysonsflowers.com) report non-delivery of orders as well as refund issues. Some also complained that the flowers that were delivered looked nothing like the photo they saw online. One buyer told BBB:
“I ordered an arrangement of different greenery and white flowers that were in a wicker basket. What was at the funeral home was a few sprigs of what looked like pine tree branches and two flowers (pink and yellow) that looked like they came out of a Doctor Seuss book and the "arrangement" was in a plastic container.”
Allysons’s Flowers operates from an address in Westlake that is a UPS Store and currently has an “F” rating with BBB due to unanswered and unresolved complaints as well as a pattern of complaints.
Don’t Look for Love in All the Wrong Places - Catfishing and romance scams victimize lonely hearts who are snagged by scammers online. In 2016, an Eastlake woman reported to BBB that she was contacted by a man claiming to be in the U.S. Military. He said he was stationed in northern Africa but planned on soon returning to his home in Atlanta, Georgia. During several weeks of video contact, she wire transferred more than $5,000 to addresses in the U.S. to pay his rent and other expenses yet his requests for money continued.
Ripoff Romeos typically display these behaviors:
Wants to leave the dating site immediately and use personal email or telephone
Claims to be completely in love within a short time of meeting you online
Claims to be in the military and stationed overseas or on business in another country and cannot meet in person
Plans to visit you in person, but needs cash for airfare or cannot visit due to an emergency
Soon starts asking for money for medical emergencies, to help a relative, airfare, etc.
To avoid becoming a victim:
Never wire money. It is nearly impossible to get money back once it has been sent through a wire service.
Put safety first. Avoid putting too much personal information on social media sites such as home address, work information or telephone number.
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.