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BBB offers tips to avoid online romance scams

Scammers, typically, create the fake profile by stealing photos from real accounts or somewhere else.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The Better Business Bureau is sending a warning to the public to watch out for online romance scams ahead of Valentine’s Day. According to the BBB, most romance scams start with a fake profile on an online dating site. Scammers, typically, create the fake profile by stealing photos from real accounts or somewhere else.

The person behind the screen will claim he or she can't meet you in person due to military or overseas work. Meanwhile, the scammer will focus on building a fake relationship with you by exchanging photos and romantic messages or talking on the phone or using a webcam. Before you know it, the scammer begins asking you for money for a health issue, family emergency, or to plan a visit.

Once you send the money, the BBB says, the con artist will keep asking for more overtime, or just stop communicating with you, altogether. Remember, you should never send money or personal information to anyone online or over the phone. In order to avoid falling victim to romance scams, the BBB is offering the following tips:

Tips to Spot This Scam:

  • Too hot to be true. Scammers offer up good-looking photos and tales of financial success. Be honest with yourself about who would be genuinely interested. If they seem “too perfect,” your alarm bells should ring.
  • In a hurry to get off the site. Catfishers will try very quickly to get you to move to communicating through email, messenger, or phone.
  • Moving fast. A catfisher will begin speaking of a future together and tell you they love you quickly. They often say they’ve never felt this way before.
  • Talk about trust. Catfishers will start manipulating you with talk about trust and how important it is. This will often be a first step to asking you for money.
  • Don’t want to meet. Be wary of someone who always has an excuse to postpone meeting because they say they are traveling or live overseas or are in the military.
  • Suspect language. If the person you are communicating with claims to be from your hometown but has poor spelling or grammar, uses overly flowery language, or uses phrases that don’t make sense, that’s a red flag.
  • Hard luck stories. Before moving on to asking you for money, the scammer may hint at financial troubles like heat being cut off or a stolen car or a sick relative, or they may share a sad story from their past (death of parents or spouse, etc.).

Protect Yourself From this Scam:

  • Never send money or personal information that can be used for identity theft to someone you’ve never met in person. Never give someone your credit card information to book a ticket to visit you. Cut off contact if someone starts asking you for information like credit card, bank, or government ID numbers.
  • Ask specific questions about details given in a profile. A scammer may stumble over remembering details or making a story fit.
  • Do your research. Many scammers steal photos from the web to use in their profiles. You can do a reverse image lookup using a website like tineye.com or images.google.com to see if the photos on a profile are stolen from somewhere else. You can also search online for a profile name, email, or phone number to see what adds up and what doesn’t.

To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker.