The new year brings new beginnings. These new beginnings sometimes mean a new romance. However, love can be blind. Some get caught up in the romance and don’t realize they’re being scammed.
In 2019, love seekers lost $201 million to romance scams, nearly a 40 percent increase from 2018. No one wants their heart broken by a stranger, and the Better Business Bureau offers help.
How romance scams work:
Scammers start by making profiles on online dating sites, apps or social media. They steal other people’s photos to pose as them. They text or message you and seemingly build a trusting relationship. Scammers make excuses for not being able to meet in person, such as they are in the military or work across the country or overseas. Sometimes, they talk to victims on the phone or video chat.
When the so-called relationship gets serious, the new boyfriend or girlfriend comes up with some excuses to get money from you. For example, he or she may claim to have health issues, a family emergency or say he or she plans to come visit you but needs money for the trip. After victims send money, scammers keep asking for money or stop communication altogether leaving your heart in a million pieces.
BBB offers tips to avoid romance scams:
• Do your own research and reverse image check. Don’t be afraid to Google the person’s name and picture to make sure he or she is who he or she claims to be.
• Ask specific questions from the profile. The scammer may have trouble remembering details from the profile.
• Don’t be a follower. Scammers will try to get you off the dating site or app quickly to avoid getting caught. Most of the time, they will want to text or email. If the scammer refuses to stay on the site or app, it should be a red flag.
• Be wary if everything is happening too fast too soon. Scammers claim to love you quickly.
• Watch out for phrases you aren’t used to, spelling errors and poor grammar.
• Speak with a friend. Someone outside the fake relationship might be able to see the red flags faster than you.
• Don’t send money or give out your personal information. It can be used for identity theft.
• Don’t be afraid to say no. The scammer may beg and plead but don’t fall for it.
The writer is the president and CEO of Better Business Bureau serving Dayton and Miami Valley.