Finding love in all the wrong places

By Kelly Trevino
Feb. 11, 2018 at 10:30 p.m.
Updated Feb. 12, 2018 at 6 a.m.

Kelly Trevino

Kelly Trevino   MAARI CHRISTANTE for The Victoria Advocate

Online dating and social media have made it easier than ever to meet new people and find potential dates.

Unfortunately, it has made scammers' work simpler, too. Con artists create compelling backstories and full-fledged identities, then trick you into falling for someone who doesn't even exist. This form of deception is known as "catfishing."

Most romance scams start with fake profiles on dating sites created by stealing photos and text from real accounts or elsewhere. Scammers often claim to be in the military or working overseas to explain why they can't meet you in person.

The scammer builds a fake relationship with you, exchanging photos and romantic messages, even talking on the phone or through a webcam.

Just when the relationship seems to be getting serious, your new sweetheart has a health issue or family emergency or wants to plan a visit. No matter the story, the request is the same: they need money. But after you send money, there's another request, and then another. Or the scammer stops communicating altogether.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, there were more than 14,000 romance scam reports to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2016. This is more than triple the nearly 4,500 reports made just a few years back in 2012.

To avoid any heartbreak, BBB warns of these red flags in a catfish scam:

• Pressure to leave the dating site. The scammer immediately suggests moving the conversation to text message or your personal email. Also, watch out for profiles that message you immediately after being matched, mainly on dating apps.

• Hasty expressions of love. They express instant feelings of love although they have very little knowledge of you.

• Change of plans. They make plans to visit but are unexpectedly prevented by a traumatic event or a business deal gone sour. Some may say they're out of the country for business or on deployment.

• Requests for money. They make multiple requests for more money and may even test you and ask for a little at first, then continue to ask for larger amounts. In some cases, the scammer sends you money and requests you transfer it to another account. If it's a sudden major expense, that's a red flag. Don't wire money if you're asked to cover travel costs, medical emergencies, hotel bills, hospital bills for a child or relative or visas and other official documents.

If you come across any suspicious activity or are a victim of a romance scam, file a Scam Tracker report at bbb.org/scamtracker and the FBI at ic3.gov.

Kelly Trevino is the regional director for the Corpus Christi office of Better Business Bureau serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin. You can reach her at 361-945-7352 or ktrevino@corpuschristi.bbb.org.


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