BBB

While romance scams are becoming a more well-known tactic of con artists, recent reports to BBB Scam Tracker indicate a rise in a new type of romance scam. Typically, a romance scam consists of a con artist tricking an unsuspecting victim into falling in love and then, conveniently, requiring a substantial amount of money due to a “life crisis.” The love-stricken victim offers to help financially, with some getting scammed out of tens of thousands of dollars. 

Here is how the scam works. An unsuspecting individual looking to find their significant other discovers a dating service that appears legitimate. The site requests the individual fill out a profile, including personal information such as location, age, name and other miscellaneous details that seem standard for a dating profile. A membership fee is required to use the dating service, so the individual inputs their credit card number to pay for the membership. 

After spending a few days on the site, you come to realize that the other people you have matched with are not real. The site is full of phony profiles and pirated photos. After canceling your membership, when discovering the hoax, it may appear that all is well, except that you continue to receive a monthly bill, despite the cancellation.

In some cases, the scam dating site requires you to pay to contact other “daters.” One victim reported joining a dating service where she bought “coins” to chat with other members. 

“I was bombarded with messages from nearly 200 different users in only a few days and without even fully filling out a personal profile,” she told BBB Scam Tracker. “I paid for coins three times and was double-charged each time. This site hires operators to steal photos, assume fake identities, and then bombards users with messages to entice them into buying coins to conversate by lying and leading people on.”     

 

How to Spot Fake Dating Websites

 

Do your research before you sign up. Research the dating website’s name along with the words “reviews” and “scams” online. Check to see what other people are saying about the site and any issues they may have had, especially when it comes to canceling their service. 

Make sure you understand how the website works. It is not entirely unusual to pay a monthly fee or small fees for individual connections to dating services but be sure the website is upfront about how their payment system works.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. When signing up for a dating service, if you begin to receive numerous messages from people wanting to meet you before even completing your profile, it is probably a scam. If you encounter someone who makes claims of undying love and devotion immediately after messaging you for the first time; it may be both a sign of an illegitimate website along with a con artist attempting a romance scam. 

Use your credit card to pay for online services and memberships. Credit cards have greater protections, and charges are easier to dispute if they were unauthorized or made for fake services. It is much more difficult, if not impossible, to get your money back if you use a debit card or link your bank account to the service via the bank’s routing number. 

Never give money or personal information to a stranger. Some con artists will ask you for money so they can buy a flight to visit you or for other “noble” reasons. If someone you have never met in person starts asking you for banking information, government ID numbers or requests money wired to them due to a “life crisis,” cut off contact immediately. 

Read the BBB Study on romance scams and these romance scam tips to learn more and avoid falling victim.

If you or anyone you know has encountered a fake dating website, file a report on BBB Scam Tracker at BBB.org/scamtracker. Information provided may make the difference in preventing another person from falling victim. 

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