According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, online romance scams—or “catphishing”—cost victims approximately $50.4 million in 2011. This Valentine’s Day, Better Business Bureau reminds singles that potential online mates can steal not only hearts, but wallets as well.
A step beyond regular “phishing,” frauds are using love as a lure. Catphishing occurs when scammers create fake personas—using online dating sites, chat rooms, social media and email accounts—and forge deceptive romances to build trust and eventually plea for financial help. On average, victims reported losses of $8,900 each in 2011.
Catphishing victims often feel too embarrassed to report incidents, which allows schemers to continue fooling others.
BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington wants hearts to skip beats, not scammers to skip town. Beware of suitors who:
- Immediately and persistently request to move correspondence to outside chat services or emails.
- Claim United States residency, but are allegedly living, working or traveling abroad.
- Are consistently unavailable by phone or refuse video chat services.
- State early on that match-ups are “destiny” or “fate.”
- Express desires for relationships to progress more quickly than normal.
- Ask for home or work addresses under the guise of sending flowers or other gifts.
- Request money or other assistance, often citing personal crises. Be especially careful if appeals become aggressive.
Never wire money to persons unknown. Always check BBB’s Scam Source for the latest local alerts.