Valentine’s Day is on the way. Love is in the air and it’s easy to be swept away in those feelings of affection. But it’s important to remember that not everyone is who they claim to be. Valentine’s Day is a preferred time for many cyber crooks attempting to lure in unsuspecting victims who are looking for love.
With the ever rising popularity of social media, it’s no wonder that many people turn to online dating sites and social media networks on their quest for romance. But while these types of websites can facilitate loving relationships, they can also be prime hunting grounds for scammers armed with fake profiles. According to the FBI, over $220 million was lost to online dating scams in 2016. To avoid these types of scams, it’s important to be on the lookout for them. If your online love interest is displaying any of these common warning signs, it’s probably best to walk away:
- They prefer to speak with you through email, text, or online messaging, rather than talk to you on the phone. Oftentimes, a phone conversation can give an online scammer away. You may notice they have a strange accent, or that the number they’re calling from doesn’t match with the area they claim to be from.
- They tell you they’re currently overseas traveling, or out of the country on business.
- Their feelings for you seem to be growing extremely fast. If they’re already telling you they love you after a few conversations, you should be highly suspicious.
- They always have an excuse for not meeting you face-to-face.
- They tell you they need money for some type of emergency.
Even if you don’t notice anything suspicious about the person you’re getting to know online, it’s still a good idea to go into any new online friendship or relationship with your guard up. If anything seems off about the photos they’ve shared with you, you can run them through a reverse image search on Google to see if they were taken from another person or website. It’s also a good idea to talk with your family and friends about your new love interest. Sometimes feelings of affection can blind us to warning signs that others can easily see. And perhaps the most important thing to remember with any new online acquaintance – never give them money. No matter what kind of story they give you regarding why they need money, it’s important to remember that you’ll likely never see your funds again if you wire money, mail cash, or give your bank account information to someone you’ve just met online.
And online dating scams aren’t the only “love scams” making the rounds this Valentine’s Day. There are flower delivery scams out there as well. One version involves an email claiming to be from a flower delivery company asking the victim to verify their credit card details before their flowers can be delivered. There’s even an in-person scam where victims receive a delivery of flowers or a package at their home, and the deliveryman tells them that there is a small delivery fee. They also tell the victim that the delivery fee can only be paid via credit card. In both of these scams, the crooks are looking to get their hands on your credit card information.
No matter what type of scam a criminal decides to use, the best way to prevent yourself from becoming a victim is to be on high alert. If you think you may have already been targeted by a scammer, there are some immediate steps you should take:
- If you’ve sent money to a potential scammer, or have given them your bank account information, let your financial institution know immediately
- Report the activity to the Federal Trade Commission at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/, and to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at https://www.ic3.gov/
- If the scam occurred on a dating site or social media network, report it to the website’s management
No matter what your relationship status, it’s important not to let your emotions cloud your judgement. Being watchful and vigilant can help protect your heart (and your wallet) this Valentine’s Day.