Can you feel that extra special hint of happiness in the air? Many people across the U.S. will be especially joyous this week, as they look forward to celebrating Valentine's Day.
Every February 14, people exchange candy, cards and flowers in celebration of their love. Unfortunately, it's also a great time for scammers to try and take advantage of people in the lonely hearts club.
This year is no different. A number of "romance" scams are popping up online.
These scams happen when someone creates a fake profile, on either a dating site or Facebook, pretending to be someone they're not. They look for single people online and start sending them messages, trying to build trust.
Eventually, the fraudster will ask their victims to send them money via wire transfers or money orders.
What financial risks are brought on by "romance" scams?
The FBI said that "sweetheart or romance scams" have become a serious problem lately. From October 2013 to February 2016, there were over 17,600 reported victims suffering $2.3 billion in losses.
In these scams, fraudsters present themselves as a perfect match to someone online. Then, the scammer preys on a victim's trust to bleed their bank accounts dry.
The criminal typically makes up a story, claiming they need money to afford a visit to the victim. The heist doesn't end there, as the criminal will find more reasons why they need more money until the victim gets wise and stops sending it. We recently told you about a woman who was scammed out of $270,000 this way.
With Valentine's Day right around the corner, online dating sites are sure to be super busy. That's why you need to know how to spot a scammer.
How to recognize a "romance" scam
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is trying to help people avoid these online dating or "romance" scams. Here are some things the FTC says to watch for:
- Your match professes love too quickly
- Claims to be from the U.S. but is traveling or working out of the country
- Cancels a meeting or trip at the last minute
- Asks for money
- Spelling and grammatical errors
The FBI warns that you should never send money to through a wire transfer service to someone you met online. The chances of recovering your money are very slim.