Editorial - Looking for love during the holidays? Avoid these scamsDon’t get involved with a person who claims to be in love from the word go. Scammers usually use emotional ties to increase the chances of getting your money. If your match asks you to pay for their travel expenses, there is a high probability that it is a scam.
The holidays can be a lonely time for single people. Some may think they’re missing out on celebrating the season if they don’t have that special someone to share it with.
So some people turn to the Internet as a place to find romance. There are dating sites that are legitimate and countless examples of successful relationships that began online.
But there are also horror stories of people getting ripped off.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Minnesota and North Dakota recently sent out a warning about scammers who use dating sites, chat rooms and social networking sites to look for the “perfect victim.” According to the BBB, they target singles of any age and in any locale, creating fake profiles designed to woo singles and convince them to hand over money.
The BBB warns that while all demographic groups are susceptible to these schemes, criminals tend to focus on people who are older than 40, divorced or widowed, as well as elderly and the disabled.
“Online romance scams continue to grow and become more sophisticated each year,”said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of the BBB. “We’re trying to make consumers aware of some warning signs that might indicate they’re dealing with a scammer when using an online dating service or social networking site.”
According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, of the 314,246 complaints they received in 2011, 5,600 were related to romance scams. Women who are 50 and older are said to be the biggest targets of online romance scams.
In some cases, the BBB said scammers will send their victims flowers and gifts while using stories of personal tragedy, injury and other hardships to earn trust and sympathy. Common signs you might be dealing with a scammer include: e-mails containing poor grammar, misspelled words and requests for money. If an e-mail or message you are sent through a dating service or online chat room contains any of these things, you may be dealing with someone intent on defrauding you.
The BBB offers the following advice for avoiding online romance scams:
• Consider using an established dating service. Check out their record first at www.bbb.org.
• Don’t get involved with a person who claims to be in love from the word go. Scammers usually use emotional ties to increase the chances of getting your money. If your match asks you to pay for their travel expenses, there is a high probability that it is a scam.
• Make sure you only open e-mails, attachments, and links from people or dating services you’re familiar with. Install updated anti-virus software, and beware of unsolicited e-mails with subject lines like, “Someone just sent you an e-card!”
• Never give credit card or online account details to anyone by e-mail and be very careful about how much personal information you share. Scammers can use your information and pictures to create a fake identity or to target you with another scam.
• Consider focusing your efforts to meet someone locally. While it’s certainly possible that special someone lives outside your area, there’s also a far higher risk of running into a long-distance scammer when you’re getting to know someone online.