COSTA MESA, Calif., Jan. 30, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- There's more to worry about this Valentine's Day than the possibility of a lonely or broken heart. Experian's ProtectMyID.com®, a multilayered identity theft detection, protection and fraud resolution product, offers insights into how to safeguard against con artists looking to steal identities and money from people seeking to make a love connection.
There are a variety of ways thieves try to capitalize on a person's trusting nature, including preying on lonely hearts. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and online identity theft advocacy organizations are warning those who use online dating sites to watch out for "sweetheart scammers" who swindle money or bank account information from online daters.
A "sweetheart scammer" usually begins with a fake profile designed to match a certain type of person: employed, affluent and trusting. The profile is designed to seem perfect in every way, even down to the same likes and dislikes as the target. Once the target reciprocates and trust has been established, the scam usually escalates to the thief's unveiling of a problem involving money. Typical scenarios include the request for funds to be able to travel to meet the target or to help the thief's sick relative.
"Individuals trying to establish a relationship through online dating services and social communities are prime targets for identity thieves who know how to prey upon the vulnerabilities of those seeking relationships," said Ken Chaplin, senior vice president for Experian's ProtectMyID. "Taking the time and effort to safeguard personal information and to look for warning signs can make all the difference in protecting yourself."
Results from a past survey commissioned by ProtectMyID determined that a high percentage of individuals participating in online dating fail to properly scrutinize potential matches prior to engaging in communication. Furthermore, many compound this issue by divulging too much personal information at a very early stage. From birth dates and addresses to phone numbers and even bank account details, the flow of information is alarmingly high in the online dating world.
ProtectMyID reminds people that they can take precautionary steps and spot a scam before romance fades into financial and identity fraud:
- Profiles should tease, not disclose everything. Don't disclose personally identifiable information with a prospective dating match until there is an established level of familiarity and trust. This also includes your hometown, home addresses, work specifics, phone numbers, educational background and information about children via profiles and through photo identification.
- Keep the details close to the heart. Avoid posting personally identifiable information on your online dating profiles, including but not limited to hometown, home addresses, work specifics, phone numbers, educational background and information about children via profiles and through photo identification.
- Cupid isn't always right. Don't assume that a prospective dating match always will be truthful. Ask a person to tell you about himself or herself; you then can conduct a little background work on websites and see if conflicting information exists. Also, be wary of any requests for financial loans or assistance of any kind.
- Create the perfect password. For online dating profiles, do not use passwords that incorporate publicly known information.
Even though Valentine's season is the time to be on high alert for possible sweetheart scams, it's important to realize this is a year-round issue. The Identity Theft Resource Center® confirms that they receive calls from people who have been swindled by sweetheart scammers throughout the year.
"With Valentine's Day around the corner, we are reminded that this holiday isn't always chocolate and roses for everyone," said Eva Casey Velasquez, president of the Identity Theft Resource Center. "While sweetheart scammers definitely operate all year long, they are particularly noticeable at a time when everyone wants to celebrate romance. These scams are a double whammy for the victim because they are affected both fiscally and emotionally. It's important to remember to always make financial decisions with your head and not your heart."
About Experian's ProtectMyID
ProtectMyID is a leading, full-service provider of identity theft detection, protection and resolution. ProtectMyID offers comprehensive identity theft protection products supported by experienced identity theft resolution professionals who deliver personal attention that customers can rely on. ProtectMyID is a Website owned by ConsumerInfo.com, Inc., an Experian company. For more information about how ProtectMyID helps consumers protect themselves against identity theft, please visit http://www.ProtectMyID.com.
Experian is the leading global information services company, providing data and analytical tools to clients around the world. The Group helps businesses to manage credit risk, prevent fraud, target marketing offers and automate decision making. Experian also helps individuals to check their credit report and credit score, and protect against identity theft.
Experian plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange (EXPN) and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 index. Total revenue for the year ended 31 March 2012 was US$4.5 billion. Experian employs approximately 17,000 people in 44 countries and has its corporate headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, with operational headquarters in Nottingham, UK; California, US; and São Paulo, Brazil.
For more information, visit http://www.experianplc.com.
Experian and the Experian marks used herein are service marks or registered trademarks of Experian Information Solutions, Inc. Other product and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.
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SOURCE Experian’s ProtectMyID.com