It may be Valentine’s Day, but a study recently released by the Better Business Bureau reveals an estimated one million Americans have been victimized in romance fraud scams with losses nearing a billion dollars over the last three years. The Better Business Bureau has issued a warning to those who use dating websites to be wary of scammers. They also provide tips to help.
“So this is a huge problem, especially as people turn to online resources to find love and get connected to other folks in the area.”
That’s John Masterson, Director of Marketing at the BBB serving Western Michigan. He says a recent study by the Better Business Bureau reveals how scammers use impersonation, blackmail and trickery to steal from unsuspecting daters.
“So this is two-fold, these people are thinking they’ve found someone who cares for them and wants to further their relationship, so they have their heart broken at the end of this as well as lose all this money that they send to this scammer online for any number of reasons.
Masterson says they uncovered a local incident here in West Michigan. He says the woman came forward to help others avoid the pain.
“She’s in her 60’s. She lost her husband of 40 plus years a few years ago and was kind of lonely, and struck up a conversation and a relationship online and it turned out over the long term, that someone was milking her and picking away at 30-thousand dollars of her bank account.”
Masterson also says that at any given time there are 25 thousand of these scam artists online, affecting a half million people in online dating at any given time.
The report says this is an underreported crime as many victims may be wiped out emotionally and financially.
“A lot of people are ashamed, because they just had their heart broken and their money stolen, and so they just don’t report it, but it is valuable to report, and it helps other consumers to know what’s out there.”
The Better Business Bureau offers these tips for daters to avoid being caught in a romance scam.
Protect your identity and your wallet. Scammers prefer prepaid card and money transfers. Never send money or any personal info to someone you’ve never met in person. Do your research. Pore over the profile image and description. If it’s sounds to good to be true, verify information. Ask for details and get specific. Request other forms of identification. Pay attention to communication. Be wary of bad grammar and misspelled words. And finally, report it. If you feel like you’ve been victimized, report it the BBB’s scam tracker at BBB.ORG.