Don’t fall for it! BBB warns of online romance scams

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Valentine’s Day is here, and if you are looking for love online, the Better Business Bureau is warning all users to watch out.

Over the last few years, many have turned to online dating and social media in the hopes of finding their special someone and meeting new people. However, some platforms have made it easier to get scammed.

“If your heart is broken, share it with a family member or a friend. I know you are embarrassed and don’t want to talk to them. But talk to somebody you care about and know cares about you and try to work through the emotion,” said Julie Wheeler with the Better Business Bureau of Western VA.

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The Better Business Bureau (BBB) reports that in 2021, North America received 276 reports on romance scams. This is a 13% increase from 2020. In 2022, the number of reported scams doubled over the first two months of the year.

The BBB revealed that victims were befriended and tricked into relationships with people whose main priority was to acquire money and obtain credit card information. With the popularity surrounding online dating, fraudsters can create backstories and identities that can trick users into falling for someone who is not real. This is known as “catfishing.”

“Be cautious; there are lots of ways to check out people. Look on social media. When was their page established? Do they have pictures over multiple years, or is it something that has been recently set up?” shared Wheeler.

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The BBB says one of the things to look out for is being asked to send money or to transfer money illegally.

Here are a few ways to spot a romance scam:

  • Too hot to be true. Scammers offer up good-looking photos and tales of financial success. Be honest with yourself about who would be genuinely interested. If they seem “too perfect,” your alarm bells should ring.

  • In a hurry to get off the site. Catfishers will try very quickly to get you to move to communicate through email, messenger, or phone.

  • Moving fast. A catfisher will begin speaking of a future together and tell you they love you quickly. They often say they’ve never felt this way before.

  • Talk about trust. Catfishers will start manipulating you with talk about trust and its importance. This will often be the first step to asking you for money.

  • Don’t want to meet. Be wary of someone who always has an excuse to postpone a meeting because they say they are traveling, live overseas, or are in the military.

  • Suspect language. If the person you are communicating with claims to be from your hometown but has poor spelling or grammar, uses overly flowery language or uses phrases that don’t make sense, that’s a red flag.

  • Hard luck stories. Before moving on to asking you for money, the scammer may hint at financial troubles like heat being cut off, or a stolen car, or a sick relative, or they may share a sad story from their past (death of parents or spouse, etc.).

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