BBB warns of online dating scams as Valentine’s Day approaches

In addition to being one of love, Valentine’s Day is an opportunity for scammers to leave unsuspecting victims brokenhearted, the Better Business Bureau warned Thursday, Feb. 12.

From catfishing to free giveaways, scams can become elaborate as Feb. 14 approaches, targeting those looking for love online.

“Romance scams come in many forms, but they usually start out with the scam artists expressing feelings of affection,” Rockford Better Business Bureau Director Dennis Horton said. “First, they build trust and then move quickly toward the ripoff.”

Horton urges citizens to beware of the following red flags when it comes to online dating scams:

  • The person asks to talk or chat on an outside e-mail or messaging service. This helps the person carry out a scam without the dating site having a record of it.
  • The person claims to be from the United States but currently traveling,    living, or working abroad;
  • The person asks you for money or credit card information; and
  • The person sends you e-mails with questionable links to third-party websites.

Other scams to be wary of include:

Catfishing—Scammers pretending to be someone they’re not with the intent of taking money or personal information from their victim.

Social media scams—“Free” giveaways for things like flowers, perfumes, or vacations. The giveaways then send you to a third-party site where your personal information can be compromised.

Instant Messaging—Instant messages invite users to become part of a “romantic online chat,” but then directs people to a site where they ask for a credit card to prove the person is at least 18.

E-cards—E-mails from “friends” linking to an online greeting card, but when the person tries to download the card, malware is downloaded instead and personal information is compromised. Always check with the sender before opening an e-card.

Phishing—An e-mail warns gifts or flowers are unable to be delivered because of an issue with a credit card. It then links to a fake site where people are asked to enter credit card information.

More information about online dating scams is available at the Better  Business Bureau’s website.

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