Rockford Better Business Bureau warns of romance scam

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MBIE consumer protection manager Mark Hollingsworth says online scams are prevalent on Valentine's Day and are not always obvious.

Many people have heard of "catfishing" - when someone online pretends to be someone else entirely - but that can be different from romance scams, the BBB says, because many catfishers simply want to deceive their victims, not steal their money.

In the past three years, Better Business Bureau Chicago has received more than 3,000 complaints from Chicago-area people victimized by romance fraud scams.

Scammers frequently create fake identities on dating websites and social media sites. “Romance scam victims may be male or female, young or old, straight or gay.”. He starts calling, and you have long conversations about your life, your future, your love. Many scammers use online dating sites, social media, email or a simple phone call.

According to the latest study out of the Better Business Bureau, losses from these scams across the US and Canada amounted to $1 billion.

Van Schalkwyk said scammers typically sought out individuals who were older than 50, either single or in hard relationships, who were looking for romance.

Western Union recently agreed to pay a penalty of US$586 million to the United States' Department of Justice (DOJ) after admitting to aiding and abetting wire fraud.

"A friend request on Facebook or a message on a dating site from a stranger might be the start of a romance scam, so it's absolutely vital to recognise the signs", said Noble.

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Although online romance scams are common, Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said there's little they can do when the scams are reported because the scammers tend to live in foreign countries.

"Scammers use poetry, flowers, and other gifts to reel in victims, the entire time declaring their 'undying love'". Scammers prefer prepaid cards and money transfers.

Gather all information pertaining to the situation, including the scammer's profile name, how you made contact, social media screenshots, emails, etc. and contact your local police.

Never send intimate photos or video of yourself. Also, run their profile picture through a search engine like Google - that way, you can see if it pops up on other sites.

Be safe in your search for love, look out for your friends and family, and if it sounds too good to be true, be wary.

Ask for details and get specifics.

If concerned about a scam, BBB said to report it to BBB Scam Tracker, the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

And then comes the kicker - he asks you for money.

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