Romance scams are in the air; protect yourself this Valentine’s Day | WWTI | #datingscams | #lovescams

NEW YORK (WWTI) – Romance scams happen when an individual lies about their identity and uses romantic interest to manipulate or steal from another person. Thieves use different variations of these scams to deceive unsuspecting daters.

The internet provides anonymity, allowing these criminals unlimited time to look for potential victims. Romance scams have the potential to affect everyone. Some groups are more frequently targeted, like seniors; especially widows, widowers and recent divorcees.

Common Elements of a Romance:

  • Fake online profiles: Scammers create the illusion of someone you would be attracted to and trust. They may find images online to use in their profile to lure unsuspecting victims.
  • Unexpected contact: Scammers may make contact online do online or scroll the information on your social media profile in order to tap into your interests and emotions, spark a conversation and build a relationship.
  • Build Trust: Scammers are patient and may communicate for weeks or months until they’ve earned your trust.
  • Unavailable to meet in person: Scammers may propose an in-person meeting, claiming they will travel to see you, then claim a last-minute emergency preventing it from happening or creating a convenient reason not to meet in person. Be suspicious of anyone who says they want to meet but then always makes excuses for why they can’t.
  • Request Money: Scammers often start by requesting small amounts of money and paying it back quickly to build trust. Eventually, the scammers request a large sum of money to be wired to them for various things. Once they receive the money, the scammer will often ask for more or create a new reason they need to borrow money. This will continue until the victim becomes suspicious, at which point the scammer will usually stop all contact and disappear.
  • Fake Cryptocurrency Investment: The FBI has identified a trend in which criminals are increasingly pressuring victims to invest in cryptocurrency. The scam starts as an online relationship then the scammer convinces the victim to investment in cryptocurrency. Victims are directed to fake websites that trick victims into believing these investment opportunities are legitimate. Once the victim makes a purchase, they are denied the ability to cash out their investments and the scammer vanishes.
  • Liability: Scammers may convert their victims into unwitting criminals by convincing them to launder and move fraudulent funds, which the victim may then be liable for both financially and potentially criminally.

Tips to Avoid Romance Scams:

  • If someone you haven’t met in person asks you for money, assume it is a scam, even if they say they need it for an emergency or traumatic life event. Never give or loan money to someone that you have not met in person. Wire transfers, prepaid cards, gift cards, and cryptocurrency are all equal to sending cash that you cannot get back. If someone asks for these types of payments, assume it is a scam.
  • Do not give out personal information to someone online, including payment and banking information, especially if you have not met them before.
  • Use trusted online dating sites, but still exercise caution. Beware of online interactions that quickly ask you to leave a dating service or social media site to communicate directly.
  • Be cautious of people you meet online who say they are an American abroad or a deployed soldier.
  • Schedule a live video-chat early in the relationship to ensure they are the person they are presenting in their profile.
  • Research anyone that you have an interest in. Ask questions. Look them up online. Verify details where you can.
  • Do a reverse image search of the person’s profile picture. If it is linked to another name or details that don’t line up, it’s likely a scam.
  • Familiarize yourself with privacy settings for all your online platforms and consider limiting who has access to your personal information, contact lists and location.
  • Turn off or cover your web cameras when not in use.
  • Don’t keep it a secret. Talk to a friend or relative about online interactions.

The New York State Division of Consumer Protection provides resources and educational materials to consumers on product safety and voluntary mediation services between consumers and businesses. Their Assistance Helpline, 1-800-697-1220, is available Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., excluding State Holidays. Consumer complaints can be filed at any time Here and. For more consumer protection tips, follow The New York State Division of Consumer Protection on social media at Twitter and Facebook.

You can follow the New York Department of State for “Tuesday’s Tips” which are practical tips to educate and empower New York consumers on a variety of topics on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Sign up to receive consumer alerts directly to your email or phone HERE.

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