Howard Schwartz of the Connecticut Better Business Bureau shares some tips on how to best navigate online dating sites.
Below is a full press release on the topic from the Connecticut Better Business Bureau. Visit www.ct.bbb.org for more information.
“Better Business Bureau has launched a campaign to educate consumers about online dating to avoid becoming a victim of fraud.
With the approach of Valentine’s Day, consumers can find discounts and coupons for online dating sites. Unfortunately, con artists pull at the heart strings and devote a lot of time and effort into building a relationship with the goal of “catfishing.”
Catfishing involves meeting someone on an online dating site, trading photos, speaking on the phone and in some cases, meeting face to face. However, as the relationship evolves, the con artist will ask for money because of some sort of emergency, and then disappear.
Unfortunately, dating sites offer anonymity and convenience to both the victim and the predator.
“Romance scams are not new,” according to Connecticut Better Business Bureau President, Paulette Scarpetti. “However, the internet has brought these scams to a new level.”
In most cases, the con artist will “not be available” to meet face to face, which is one of the red flags to watch out for when meeting someone online. Better Business Bureau encourages singles to know the warning signs of catfishing.
Beware of anyone who:
Wants to move the relationship off the dating site – If a romantic interest asks to talk or chat through an outside email or messaging service, this allows them to carry out scams without the dating site having a record of the encounter. Remember that scammers play on emotion, and romance is certainly a strong emotion.
Isn’t around – The catfisher claims to be from this country but is currently traveling, living or working abroad. Scammers come up with all kinds of excuses why they can’t meet in person just yet. Be cautious of online daters who claim to be called away suddenly, or to be in the military and stationed overseas.
Asks you for money or credit card information – In some cases the scammer will claim an emergency like a sick relative or stolen wallet, and ask you to wire money. The first wire transfer is small but the requests keep coming and growing. Or they may ask for airfare to come for a visit. The payback promises are empty; the money’s gone, and so is he or she.
Sends you emails containing questionable links to third-party websites – Third-party links can contain malware that’s designed to steal personal information off your computer. Scammers may use third party links that look credible, but in reality, link to viruses that can lead to identity theft.
If you are considering joining an online dating site, even if you don’t meet the love of your life, Better Business Bureau has tips to make an educated choice and avoid problems:
Consider your payment schedule
Some sites offer discounted membership fees if you sign up for an extended period, such as six months, as opposed to one month. The discount may be a good value, but typically you will be asked to pay for that period upfront. Make sure you understand all terms, conditions and exclusions. These include whether your images may be used for marketing purposes.
Ask about automatic membership renewal
Most sites that charge a membership fee operate on an automatic renewal process. This means that if you want to cancel but don’t do it by a certain date, your membership will automatically be renewed, without notification.
Different sites appeal to people of different age groups, ethnicity and interests. Do some research on who is likely to be on the website of your choice. Your research could prevent you from joining a site that is not likely to have any prospective matches.
Do your research
The anonymity of online dating sites is convenient, but remember that people may not be who they appear to be. Use a search engine and try to verify information in their profile, such as where they attended school. However, keep in mind that information and photos can be lifted from elsewhere on the internet and used to construct a deceptive dating site profile.
Never reveal personal information in the beginning such as where you work or live, your license plate number, or any information about your family members.
Always meet in a public place. Never allow the other person to pick you up, and if you go to several places during an outing, always take separate cars. Ensure a friend or family member knows where you are going, who you’re going to be with and when you expect to be home. Tell them to check in with you periodically to make sure you are safe and to call the police if you don’t respond within a predetermined amount of time.
You will additional information at www.bbb.org/scamstopper“