Better Business Bureau Northwest and Pacific is reminding social media users to watch out for the red flags of online romance scams following the launch of Facebook Dating on Sept. 5.
The Facebook dating platform requires users to create a separate profile to participate. The goal is to match users based on preferences picked when creating the profile, along with pre-established interests and Facebook activity.
As dating apps continue to become more innovative and personal, it is critical users learn the signs of catfishing when talking to a stranger. Research has found that more than 85% of catfishing scams start on Facebook.
Last year, Washington victims lost an average $23,128 to romance scams, according to the FBI and reports filed on BBB Scam Tracker. Washington was also listed in the top 10 states where users are most likely to be catfished. In fact, the Northwest is a hot zone for romance scams as Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Wyoming are all in the top 10.
How the scam works
You meet someone new online and start chatting. Things move quickly in a romantic direction. As the time to finally meet approaches, the person on the other end has some sort of “emergency” preventing them from being able to see you, unless you send money to help. BBB finds that in many cases, victims of romance scams do send money.
“The financial losses caused by romance scams can be thousands of dollars or more,” said Charles Harwood, Northwest regional director for the Federal Trade Commission. “Just as devastating is the trauma when victims struggle with the conflicting emotions caused by a relationship they believed in deeply and now seems to have been a complete fabrication.”
Romance scams are a growing nationwide problem – reports filed with the FTC more than doubled from 2017 to 2018. In total, $143 million was lost last year.
Here are BBB’s tips on how to spot a scam:
In a hurry – Catfishers try to move off the dating site you started on – Facebook or not – very quickly. The goal is to get the victim emailing or texting as soon as possible.
Love at first type – Scammers start to talk about a future together extremely fast, often saying things like “I knew I loved you right away” or making plans to get married, have children, etc.
Hard luck stories – Catfishers build up the relationship quickly by sharing intimate or sad stories to gain trust and sympathy before they inevitably come upon hard times. If this person has not been willing to meet and then, when it’s finally supposed to happen, something tragic happens – don’t send money. This is a common tactic used to bait victims.
For more information on romance scams you can head to BBB’s website at www.bbb.org. If you or someone you know has been a victim of a scam, please let us know about it by submitting a scam tracker report at www.bbb.org/scamtracker.