Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific sent out a warning social media users to watch out for the red flags of online romance scams following the launch of Facebook Dating on Sept. 5, 2019.
Facebook officially rolled out its dating platform last week, which 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 preestablished interests and Facebook activity, a BBB press release said.
As dating apps continue to become more innovative and personal, it is critical that users learn the signs of catfishing when talking to a stranger. Research has found that more than 85% of catfishing scams start on Facebook, the release continued.
Last year, Hawai‘i victims lost an average $20,468 to romance scams, according to the FBI and reports filed on BBB Scam Tracker.
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 otherwise, 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, even 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.