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Looking For Love? Be Careful - Scammers Use Online Dating Sites To Find Victims

If you’re looking for love online, beware that there may be up to 25,000 scammers online working with victims at any given time. Leading up to holidays such as Valentine’s Day that number may increase. Many Americans, including area residents have been victimized. BBB warns – if you use a dating site, know what to watch for.“To the scammers, it’s a business, not a love interest,” said Janna Kiehl, BBB President. Their only interest is to take your money, or worse, use you in a money mule scam.” In fact, 30% of unsuspecting romance scam victims are used in money mule scams, aiding the scammer in their illegal activity. Most of the time, when law enforcement gets involved, the victim’s address is the only one they have to go on since the scammers are located out of the US.BBB’s Romance Scam Study and Money Mule Scam Study indicate that the scammer can take several months of communications as they gain the victim’s trust. The scammer eventually will ask for small amounts of money or help with shipping products. Victims often turn into unknowing accomplices of money laundering.“Victims can be wiped out financially and devastated emotionally,” said Kiehl. If you’re searching for a date online, it’s important that know the person on the other end of the conversation is who they say they are.”Among the report’s key findings:· There is no “typical” victim of romance fraud. They can be male or female, young or old, straight or gay. The common denominator is that they are seeking a loving relationship, and they believe they have found it.· Scammers often portray themselves as U.S. military members. Military officials say they receive thousands of complaints yearly from scam victims around the world. Officials note military members will never need money for leave or health care.· The majority of romance fraud has its home in West Africa, particularly Nigeria. There also are groups that operate in Russia and the Ukraine that employ online dating sites to defraud victims.· At any one time, there may be 25,000 scammers online working with victims. A company that screens profiles for dating companies told BBB that 500,000 of the 3.5 million profiles it scans monthly are fake.BBB tips to avoid being caught in a romance scam:· Protect your identity and your wallet. Scammers prefer prepaid cards and money transfers. Never send money or any personal information to someone you’ve never met in person. Also, be cautious to not reveal any personal information or do anything you might regret later when using video applications. Some scammers use software to record video calls and then use it to extort money from victims.· Think before going from public to private. Be hesitant if the conversation moves from a monitored site like social media or a dating site to a more private form of communication like email or instant messaging. This strategy might be a way for the scammer to draw you in without other people interfering.· Do your research. Pour over the profile image and description. Perform a reverse image search to see if the profile photo has been used on other websites. You can also copy a portion of their biography and search to see if it’s been used on other sites.· Ask for details and get specific. Request other forms of identification, like a photo of them holding a piece of paper with their username on it. Ask specific questions about details in their profile. Scammers likely will make excuses for why they can’t provide you more information.· Pay attention to communication. Be wary of bad grammar and misspelled words. No one is perfect, but if mistakes often are repeated, it may suggest they aren’t from where they claim. Be on guard for use of pet names or discussions of marriage early in correspondence.· Report it. If you feel you’ve been victimized, report it to BBB’s ScamTracker, the Federal Trade Commission and FBI.

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