Valentine’s Day has come and gone. If Cupid hasn’t been returning your texts, it might be tempting to take the reins and go online to look for love. This can be a good way to meet new people, but without the proper precautions, you may not only be putting yourself in physical harm but also financial harm. What does theÂ FBI call financial scams related to online dating? “Romance fraud.â€
“Be careful who you trust,â€ says Ed Goodman, chief privacy officer for Identity Theft 911. “ID thieves target dating sites because people have their guard down. It’s easier to take advantage of someone when they’re vulnerable.â€ Here are tips from Goodman on staying safe online.
Don’t rely on a photo. Don’t let a photo fool you into making you feel that you’ve developed a deeper connection than you really have. Goodman notes that scammers often post photos of other people and claim that it’s them. Romancescams.org, a Website that educates consumers on romance fraud, has a database of photos that many scammers use.
Don’t share too much too soon. Don’t give your real name or any other identifying information too soon in the online dating process. Specifically, don’t put your address, phone number, or date of birth on your profile. Beware of anyone who asks you for information such as your mother’s maiden name or your pet’s name, as these answers are often used for security questions for online banking and other financial accounts.
Don’t give money. Many scams begin with a love interest in another country claiming that they want to come and visit you. Next, the scammer will ask for money so that he or she can make the trip. Then, they’ll claim that they got into a horrible accident or that they were mugged and need more money. These lies are told so the scammer can get their hands in your pocket.
Don’t accept money. Another financial scam involves your love interest sending a counterfeit check. He or she will then ask you to deposit the check and wire the money via Money Gram or Western Union overseas. According to FraudAid, a nonprofit fraud victim advocacy site, many overseas scammers use this tactic to engage in money laundering.
File a complaint. If you were the victim of romance fraud, you can file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center, also known as IC3.Â This organization is a partnership between the National White Collar Crime Center, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Sheiresa Ngo is the multimedia content producer for consumer affairs at Black Enterprise.
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