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Risky Romance: Avoiding online romance scams

Posted at 6:18 AM, Feb 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-11 06:37:24-05

(LEX 18) — Valentine's Day is this Friday and if you're looking for love online, it's important to know the signs of a scammer, so you don't end up brokenhearted and broke.

According to the FBI's Internet Fraud Complaint Center, romance fraud is the second costliest scam in terms of victim loss, behind investment fraud.

A Better Business Bureau study released in 2018 found that over the last three years, victims in the U.S. and Canada lost nearly $1 billion to online romance scams.

Heather Clary with the BBB of Central/Eastern Kentucky says that's just what's reported. Often, cases don't come up because the victim doesn't want people to know they fell for a scam.

If you're online, here are some key things to look out for when you're chatting with someone:

  • Are they trying to quickly move you off the site and use other methods of communication like texting or WhatsApp?
  • Do they refuse to video chat or talk on the phone?
  • Are they asking for money? This is one of the biggest red flags, especially if it comes with a sudden or elaborate story. A common story is the user claims to be in the military.
  • When they ask for money, are requesting it through methods that are untraceable, like MoneyGram or gift cards?

There's also a way to check if the person isn't who they appear to be even before you start talking.

"If you're given photos of your love, you can do image searches on google or some other sites that help you see if that image has popped up in other places, even in similar scams,” said Clary.

Another tip is to search the person's profile name and key words or story elements they message, to see if a similar scam has come up before.

You can report these scams to the Better Business Bureau's Scam Tracker.