BBB is warning that Valentines Day is a prime time for scammers to play on the emotions of unsuspecting consumers.

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Nebraska, South Dakota, The Kansas Plains and Southwest Iowa is warning that it’s prime time for scammers to play on the emotions of unsuspecting consumers. Because there are few emotions stronger than falling in love, romance scams are particularly lucrative.

According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, romance scams accounted for more than $80 million in losses for 2013.

Scammers use dating sites to find their targets. They send messages—usually to women—wooing them into new relationships. The criminals pretend to be working abroad or serving in the military overseas. After exchanging several messages through the online dating site, the scammer requests communication via email or a chat service. They then befriend the women on Facebook, using a fake profile.

Soon the scammer tells his new “love interest” he wants to meet her. There’s just one problem. He doesn’t have money for the trip. He asks for money but as soon as he receives it, he disappears and stops communicating.

BBB warns consumers to be wary of anyone who:
•       Asks to talk or chat on an outside email or message service. This allows fraudsters to carry out scams without the dating site having a record of the encounter.

•       Claims to be from this country but is currently traveling, living or working abroad. This makes it easy for scammers to avoid in-person meetings and opens the door for them to ask for travel money.

•       Has a suspicious Facebook profile. Scammers often use the names and photos of real people to create fake Facebook profiles. Their profiles tend to have few friends and be rife with grammatical errors. Also check to see when they joined. Recent pages are another red flag.

•       Asks for money or credit card information. In some cases the scammer will claim an emergency, like a sick relative or stolen wallet, and will ask for money via wire transfer. The initial amount is often small, but the requests keep coming and growing. Alternatively, he may ask for airfare to come for a visit.

•       Sends emails containing questionable links to third-party websites. Third-party links can contain malware that’s designed to steal personal information off a consumer’s computer.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation says romance scammers target men and women of all ages. BBB has many resources online to help consumers stay safe. Visit bbbinc.org for consumer scam alerts and stay connected with the latest information from BBB, by liking us on Facebook at facebook.com/bbb1936 or follow us on Twitter, @BBBNE_SD_KS_IA.

ABOUT BBB
Better Business Bureau (BBB) has been assisting U.S consumers and businesses since 1912. It is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing trust in the marketplace. In 2014, people turned to BBB more than 165 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 4.7 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. Today, BBB serving Nebraska, South Dakota The Kansas Plains and Southwest Iowa is supported by approximately 10,000 Accredited Businesses that have voluntarily committed to adhere to BBB’s Standards of Trust.