The Better Business Bureau (BBB) issued a warning that looking for love in all the wrong places this Valentine’s Day can be detrimental to the pocketbook.
The BBB released a study showing nearly one million Americans have been the victim of romance fraud and the losses over the last three years boarder on $1 billion.
St. Louis BBB President and CEO Michelle Corey said in a release, “We believe that this is an under reported crime with many victims too embarrassed to report what has happened to them.”
The study states that a romance scam can take several months to develop. The scammer starts out asking for small amounts of money.
Corey said, “Victims can be wiped out financially. Emotionally, it is devastating. Some victims have considered suicide.”
There are no typical victims, the only factor is people looking for a loving relationship.
Scammers often say they are U.S. military members and a company that screens dating profiles said that 500,000 of the 3.5 million profiles it scans monthly are scammers.
The BBB said there are several tips that potential online daters can use to avoid the dregs.
First, they recommend protecting your identity and your money. Never send personal information or money to someone you haven’t met in person.
Protect yourself on video calls, some scammers record sessions and use it to blackmail money.
Research. Make sure you are checking the persons online profile. Check other social media areas. Many scammers use the same format for all dating websites.
Don’t move the conversation from a monitored site to a private form of communication right away.
If the person claims they are military, ask them for their official military address, which all end in @mail.mil. A scammer will likely give an excuse why they can’t give the information out.
Ask them for a picture with their user name written on a piece of paper.
Be on the lookout if the person starts using pet names or talks about marriage early in the conversation.
Corey said, “If you are going to search for a date online, it’s vital that you know the person on the other end of the conversation is who they say they are.”