CROMWELL – Love may be blind, but according to Connecticut Better Business Bureau, criminals have 20/20 vision when it comes to spotting opportunities as Valentine’s Day approaches. The results can be heartbreaking and expensive.
There are several types of Valentine’s Day scams, and with caution, people who are looking for love or celebrating their relationship can avoid becoming a victim.
People looking for love often join online dating services as February 14th approaches. In what is known as “catfishing,” con artists create fake profiles with the intent of courting for the purpose of financial gain. This can happen on legitimate dating websites, through social media and by email.
The scammers quickly profess their love, move the relationship forward as quickly as possible and then ask for money to be wired for a plane ticket for a visit. The romance abruptly ends when they never show up and your money disappears.
The catfishing criminal may alternatively ask for money for a medical or other type of emergency. Victims have reported losses ranging from several hundred to tens of thousands of dollars.
To avoid being tracked down, catfishers encourage moving from a dating website to direct communication by email, text or phone, find excuses to avoid meeting face to face and ask that money be sent through untraceable payment methods such as wire transfer or a cashier’s check.
Like any holiday, it is not unusual to receive a Valentine’s Day card through email. However, hackers send out greeting cards containing hyperlinks capable of stealing your personal information and contacts. Legitimate eCards provide both a link and a confirmation code you can enter manually to allow you to view the card on the distributor’s website.
Impostor scams and bad business:
Valentine’s Day criminals work the phones posing as florists. Victims pay for bouquets that never arrive. Unethical online websites may add undisclosed or inflated fees to orders for flowers, chocolate, jewelry and anything else they are selling. Fake websites boast sweetheart deals, take your money, promise much and deliver nothing.
Connecticut Better Business Bureau offers these tips to avoid Valentine’s Day heartaches, headaches and fraud:
Look for the signs of catfishing – The scammers can be very patient and will invest weeks or months cultivating a “relationship.” They may even send money or a gift to gain victims’ trust. They often work their schemes on several online dating contacts at the same time.
Watch for red flags in email and social media – If you receive link to content that resembles a well-known company you’ve never done business with before, be skeptical. If you are looking for deals, you can sign up for sale alerts or check legitimate retailers’ social media sites for specials.
Find your own vendors and verify them – Rather than doing business with a stranger over the telephone or on an unfamiliar website, check vendors at bbb.org.