With Valentine’s Day around the corner and romance scams on the rise, the Better Business Bureau of Washington is sharing tips to protect yourself from such scams, which have skyrocketed in the past few years.
Last year, more than 95,000 people across the nation reported about $770 million in losses to frauds that were initiated on social media platforms, according to a Federal Trade Commission report released last month.
“Those losses account for about 25% of all reported losses to fraud in 2021 and represent a stunning eighteenfold increase over 2017 reported losses,” the FTC said.
And despite our state’s tech-savvy reputation, Washington was listed as the 7th most catfished state in 2020, with victims reporting an unprecedented loss of almost $15 million to romance scammers.
The Better Business Bureau this week released the following tips to avoid becoming a romance scam victim. Watch out if:
The potential love interest is too good to be true. The scammer’s picture shows an attractive individual who is financially successful, overshares elaborate details about their life and is ready to jump into a relationship. If the person comes across as too perfect, take a step back. A reverse image search of the profile picture that pulls multiple profiles means the images and identity of someone else has been stolen.
They’re in a hurry to get off the site. The catfisher quickly moves from communicating via the dating site to email, messenger and the phone. This takes the relationship to the next level, which is exactly what they want.
They go straight to “love” really fast. The relationship goes from zero to 100 too fast. The con artist will refer to a future together and says “I love you” quickly. They know how to say all the right words to make the victim feel special.
They are constantly talking about trust. In addition to the word “love,” the catfisher introduces “trust” into the relationship. They constantly talk about how vital trust is in their relationships and that they know the victim is trustworthy. This sets the stage to ask for money later.
They’re unable to meet in person. While the scammer talks about meeting in person, they always have an excuse as to why they can’t. Scammers often say they have to move around a lot due to their military status or that they work overseas, according to the Better Business Bureau. Ask for a video chat — if they pull every excuse in the book, they are likely not the person they claim to be.
Watch out for the language. Watch out for poor spelling or grammar, overly flowery language and phrases that don’t make sense.
They have a hard-luck story. A catfisher might share a tale of being down on their luck. For example: they’re stuck in a foreign country, a spouse or child died, they have a sick relative, or any story to make you feel sorry about their situation. These stories can be used to hint at financial troubles, setting the stage for a catfisher to ask for money.
They ask for money. When someone you have never met in person starts asking for money, be cautious. The relationship might have been built up to this moment where the payoff finally happens for the catfisher, and the victim loses financially — most often over time.
To protect yourself, the BBB says to do your research and 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.
Never send money or give out personal information that can be used for identity theft, 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.