CHICAGO, Feb. 13, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- With Americans of all ages going online to find a perfect partner – one in ten Americans have used an online dating site or mobile app, according to Pew Research – Internet dating is a huge business, especially around Valentine's Day; but it also involves risks of being conned. Romance cons cost an average loss of more than $10,000 per victim. Scammers know how to make a connection – consumers need to know how to protect themselves.
"A scammer starts by gaining your trust -- then they start asking for personal information or for money," said AARP Illinois Associate State Director Terri Worman. "You end up with a broken heart, and an empty bank account. But there are simple steps you can take to protect yourself, and your money."
Recognize the signs
- Instalove – Your new connection immediately moves the conversation to email or instant messaging, appearing to quickly have fallen in love.
- On the street where you live (NOT) – Most scammers say they're from your town, when actually they are in another country.
- Money, honey – The next step is to ask you to help them with money for travel fees, family emergencies, health emergencies, or to help them until a big business deal comes through. Before you know it, you're being scammed out of thousands of dollars.
- Who are you? – Do an image search of their profile photo, and consider a background check if nothing is found about them online.
- How Deep Is Your Pocket, er, Love?– You should never give credit card, financial account details or personal information like your Social Security Number to anyone you don't know and trust, especially if you've only met them online.
- Breaking up is not hard to do – Break off contact immediately, do not send any more money, and report the scammer. You should report them to the website or chat room operator, your local police, the Internet Crime Complaint Center, and the Federal Trade Commission (toll-free 877-FTC-HELP)
You can also sign up to AARP's Fraud Watch Network and receive alerts about cons and scams going on in your own state. For additional information and resources, follow Terri Worman's and Sid Kirchheimer's AARP blogs on frauds, scams, and consumer protections.
SOURCE AARP Illinois