As Valentine’s Day approaches and romance scams are on the rise, the Better Business Bureau in Washington is sharing tips to protect yourself from these scams, which have exploded in recent years.
Last year, more than 95,000 people across the country reported about $770 million in losses from fraud initiated on social media platforms, according to a Federal Trade Commission report released last month.
“These losses represent approximately 25% of all reported fraud losses in 2021 and represent an astounding eighteen-fold increase from reported losses in 2017,” the FTC said.
And despite our state’s tech-savvy reputation, Washington was listed as the 7th most fished state in 2020, with victims reporting an unprecedented loss of nearly $15 million to romance scammers.
The Better Business Bureau released the following tips this week to avoid becoming a victim of romance scams. Be careful if:
Potential love interest is too good to be true. The scammer’s photo shows an attractive person who is financially successful, shares elaborate details about his life and is ready to embark on a relationship. If the person seems too perfect to you, take a step back. A reverse image search of the profile photo that retrieves multiple profiles means that someone else’s images and identity have been stolen.
They are in a hurry to leave the site. The fisherman quickly moves from communicating through the dating site to email, messaging, and the phone. It takes the relationship to the next level, which is exactly what they want.
They go straight to “love” very quickly. The relationship goes from zero to 100 too quickly. The scammer will reference a future together and quickly say “I love you”. They know how to say all the right words to make the victim feel special.
They constantly talk about trust. In addition to the word “love”, the fisherman introduces “trust” into the relationship. They constantly talk about the importance of trust in their relationships and the fact that they know the victim is trustworthy. This sets the stage for asking for money later.
They can’t meet in person. While the scammer talks about meeting in person, he always has an excuse for why he can’t. According to the Better Business Bureau, scammers often say they have to travel a lot because of their military status or because they work overseas. Ask for a video chat – if they’re pulling every excuse out of the book, they’re probably not the person they say they are.
Pay attention to the language. Watch out for spelling or grammatical errors, overly flowery language, and sentences that don’t make sense.
They have a history of bad luck. A cat fisherman might say he was unlucky. For example: they are stuck in a foreign country, a spouse or child has died, they have a sick relative or any story to make you regret their situation. These stories can be used to hint at financial issues, setting the stage for a catfisherman to ask for money.
They ask for money. When someone you’ve never met in person starts asking for money, be careful. The relationship may have been built up to that point when the gain finally occurs for the catfisherman, and the victim loses financially – usually over time.
To protect yourself, the BBB says to do your research and do a reverse image search using a website like tineye.com or images.google.com to see if a profile’s pictures are stolen from elsewhere.
You can also search online for a profile name, email, or phone number to see what adds up and what doesn’t.
Never send money or give personal information that can be used for identity theft, never give someone your credit card information to book a ticket to visit you. Cut contact if someone starts asking you for information such as credit card, bank, or government ID numbers.