Officials warn of online dating scams

REUTERS  StringerA customer selects roses at a flower shop ahead of Valentine's Day in southwestern China's Chongqing municipality

REUTERS StringerA customer selects roses at a flower shop ahead of Valentine's Day in southwestern China's Chongqing municipality

"This time of year, when people are looking for love and celebrating love, around Valentine's Day and it's a flawless time for scammers are ramping up their efforts", BBB Regional Manager Mara Clingingsmith said.

The Better Business Bureau held a press conference on Tuesday morning, February 13 about online romance scams, just in time for Valentine's Day.

Romance scam victims in the United States and Canada have reported losing almost $1 billion over the last three years, according to the Better Business Bureau.

Parson says if you are doing online dating to make sure that it's a secure site. It can happen to anybody who is gay or straight. He starts calling, and you have long conversations about your life, your future, your love. Scammers portray themselves as a member of the U.S. Military or working on oil rigs.

Over the previous year, the BBB says around one million Americans have been victimized by romance fraud and scammers have taken home close to $1 billion.

The FBI's Internet Fraud Complaint Center and the Federal Trade Commission estimate that 32,279 people were victims of online romance scams a year ago, losing more than $350 million.

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To attract women, men will oftentimes claim to be financially successful and often single fathers in need of help, while women will often attempt to attract men by claiming to be young, attractive and in need of financial assistance, the report said. He also recommends that online daters never send money or any personal information to someone they haven't met in person. In 2017, Canadian victims lost over $17 million to scammers pretending to be in love. There are also groups that originate in Russian Federation and the Ukraine that employ online dating sites to defraud victims.

Experts say if you feel you have been a victim of one of these scams, you should report it to the FTC and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Many use scripted sets of emails to develop online relationships, with many victims receiving text messages daily, and work on isolating victims from friends or family who might alert them that they are involved in a fraud. Scammers prefer prepaid cards and money transfers. Remember, intimate photos or videos can be used to blackmail you. "If a profile seems too good to be true, then it probably is".

Do a quick Google search to see if the information your match provides lines up with what you can find online.

Ask specific questions about details given in a profile.

Do your research. Pore over the profile image and description. Always, the report said, be wary of discussions of marriage early in the relationship.

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