Online romance scams increase as Valentine's Day nears. (CBS News photo)
Online romance scams increase as Valentine's Day nears. (CBS News photo)

CCSO: Beware of online romance scams as Valentine’s Day nears

With Valentine’s Day around the corner and loneliness at an all-time high, it’s important to be on high alert when looking for love online.

The online world can be a scary place if you’re unaware of the possible dangers that are lurking. On the other hand, it can also be an amazing passport for meeting people all over the world.  There are countless websites and apps touting love and endless romance but are you aware of the possibilities you’re up against?

Unfortunately, there are scores of people who use these sites for the wrong reasons. For example, draining your bank account and risking your retirement.

Using fake names and photos, these scammers will create connections with you; asking about your life and will most likely never reveal much about themselves at first.  Once they know you could fall prey to their sophisticated scams the sob stories start.

“My car broke down and I don’t have the money to fix it”

“My mother/brother/father needs urgent medical treatment”

“My laptop has been stolen and I won’t be able to keep in touch with you”

Never send money or give credit card details, online account details, or copies of important personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust.

Beware if the person you’re talking with online:

  • Has strong feelings for you after just a few days or email conversations.
  • Wants to visit you, but there’s an emergency that requires you to wire funds so they can make the trip.
  • Has only professional photos, no everyday snapshots with friends.
  • Won’t use a video chat service like Skype or FaceTime to talk with you.
  • Is interested in everything you say you’re interested in.

It pays to be paranoid

Run a search. A great way to be your own detective is to copy and paste the images your online friend has posted to his or her profile into a search engine such as Google or TinEye and see if the images are associated with a person who has another name or lives in a different city.

Interrogate the backstory. Do your own research. Search their name on Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. and see if their story lines up.

Be alert to things like spelling and grammar mistakes, inconsistencies in their stories and others signs that it’s a scam like their camera never working for Skype or FaceTime.

Author: Charlotte County Sheriff's Office
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