Avoid these romance and dating scams this Valentine’s Day

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Broken Heart On Dollar Bills
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Valentine’s Day may evoke thoughts of red roses, fine wine and perhaps a nice restaurant or surprise getaway, but there’s a darker side that’s important to keep in mind: Romance scams are hot and heavy this time of year.

The one thing that many of the romance scams have in common is that they all prey upon the lonely and lovesick in an effort to get them to part with their money.

Romance scams stole more than $143 million from Americans in 2018, according to recent government figures.

Team Clark and our Consumer Action Center assist people who are targets of these scams nearly every day. Here are some of the most common ones to be aware of.

How to spot and avoid romance-related scams

1. Don’t be ‘Catfished’ into giving away your personal info

The popular MTV show of the same name has popularized what many jaded lovers have found out the hard way: Bad actors on the internet are actively trying to scam people by using faux affection. Rather than hearts, these crooks are trying to win dollar bills.

The way the ruse usually works is that the victim is lured into buying expensive gifts, or sharing their personal information like their credit card or bank account. Catfished victims could end up in financial ruin — along with heartbreak.

How to avoid this scam:

  • Talk to people about your new relationship and pay attention if friends or family members are concerned
  • Take it slowly and ask lots of questions
  • Learn more at https://www.ftc.gov/imposters

2. Never accept money from or send money to a romantic interest you haven’t met in person

If your internet love interest asks you to accept money into your bank account and transfer it into another account — perhaps for an upcoming romantic vacation together — don’t fall for it. This is a scam. Furthermore, this is a classic example of money laundering, which is a criminal offense.

How to avoid this scam:

  • Never wire money for or to someone you don’t know
  • If the person asking you to do this insists that you hurry, tell a friend, family member or even the FTC at at ftc.gov/complaint.

3. Watch out for bogus websites

If you spot a nice floral arrangement or other gift online, there are some things you should look for before you hit the purchase button. There are tons of fake websites out there that look real to the untrained eye. Giving your payment information to one of them could clean out your account.

How to avoid this scam:

  • If you don’t see the logos of payment providers like Visa, Mastercard and PayPal, be careful
  • Make sure the site you are dealing with is SSL encrypted. One way to tell is that the URL begins with https://
  • Google the website’s name + “scam” or “complaint’ and see what pops up

4. Online greeting cards may come with a surprise

If you get an e-card from an acquaintance or stranger, you’d do well to proceed with caution before opening it. That’s because that online greeting card could be infected with malware. It’s an old “phishing” scam that could your computer could crash. Even worse, the bug may start to siphon personal information from your computer!

How to avoid this scam:

  • If you don’t know know sent it, don’t open it. Money expert Clark Howard says he’s very careful about even taking phone calls from unrecognizable numbers. The same principle applies to email.

Have you or someone you know been a victim of a dating scam? Let us know in the comments below so we can help keep each other safe!

Here are some other Valentine’s Day-related articles from Team Clark you may enjoy:

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Craig Johnson is a conscious money-saver who still reads paperback books and listens to vinyl. He likes to write about how technology is making things easier and more affordable — but also sometimes more dangerous — for the modern consumer. You can reach Craig at [email protected]
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