‘Catfish’ lives on in popular dating apps, says BBB
ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) – Valentine’s Day is approaching and scammers are looking for quick cash in the right places.
“Cyberspace is teeming with scam artists eager to take advantage of lonely hearts,” says Dennis Horton, director of the Better Business Bureau’s Rockford regional office. “Thus, seeking romantic bliss online can have major downsides, not only the loss of money, but also serious emotional injury. Victims are affected across all demographics, but according to the BBB Risk Report 2020 Scam Tracker, people aged 55 to 65 and over are most often victims.
Horton says a scam scenario looks like this: You post a dating profile and a promising match pops up — cute, funny, and seems interested in you. This potential match claims to live far away or be overseas for commercial or military deployment. One thing leads to another, the person you’re talking to suggests that you move your relationship to a private channel like email or a chat app. After some time, maybe a few days, weeks or even a month, an emergency event will occur and they will ask you for money to deal with the emergency.
They promise to pay him back, but Horton says that will never happen. Instead, they will keep asking for more until their victim realizes they are being ripped off.
“Over the four years from 2016 to 2020, Federal Trade Commission figures show victims lost more than $300 million,” Horton notes.
To protect yourself from these scams, Horton suggests never sending money to strangers or someone you haven’t met in person. A request for money is “advice to the scammer”. Be especially careful if they ask you to send funds via wire transfer, money orders, or prepaid cards, as these payment methods are untraceable and cannot be returned. Immediately cut off contact with anyone asking for money online.
Horton also notes that scammers can create very convincing profiles using photos stolen from other users. If you think an account is fake, use reverse image search to see if their photos are being used on other profiles.
And finally, don’t sympathize with sad stories with someone you just met. Victims of romance scams are often drawn to stories that touch the heart, making them want to help the scammer or their supposed family. Please resist the urge to send them money, no matter how urgent the situation may seem.
Horton suggests that if romance seekers slow down romance and investigate, they can avoid being “catfished” on popular dating sites.
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