The Better Business Bureau of southern Alberta is warning about finding love in all the wrong places this Valentine’s Day. Romance fraud increases on days like today. A lot of these fraudsters start with fake profiles on dating sites. Photos are usually stolen from real accounts. The scammer will build a relationship with the victim and then begin to ask for money. Wes Lafortune, from the BBB, says there are tips you can use to protect yourself if you think you are being taken advantage of.
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.
Lafortune says you can use a google reverse-image search to check if photos match up with what the person is using.