LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY)- An estimated one million Americans have been victimized in romance fraud scams with losses nearing one billion dollars over the last few years.
The Better Business Bureau is warning people who use dating sites or apps to be wary of scammers who prey on unsuspecting victims.
Laurian Clause, with the Better Business Bureau of Acadiana said, “We’ve had a bank at one time notify us of one of their customers and really pleading with us to speak to them, and they will not speak to us because they believe they’re in love so it’s a very hard way to reach these people once they have been affected by these scammers.”
In today’s world, the age of meeting a potential partner in person can happen using social media and online dating sites, but scammers can take advantage of that.
“It’s again through these online dating sites and these people are vulnerable,” explained Clause. “They’re looking for that perfect mate. That kind of thing so they’re really preying on the emotions and the way they do that is it’s built up over a period of time where these scammers try to gain the trust.”
The online romance scam can take a number of months to play out as the scammer gains the victim’s trust. The scammer will eventually ask for small amounts of money.
That can turn the victim into an unknown accomplice of money laundering.
“As a money mule, most of the fraud is contained overseas so what happens is the scammer has arrangements with someone overseas and is being paid by someone overseas through this romance scam to then have them money launder,” said Clause.
Romance scammers can also create fake profiles through dating sites or apps.
“The best way to empower yourself is to know when you’re going on these online dating sites what to be on the lookout for before you enter in those kinds of things,” added Clause.
Here are the following suggestions for daters to avoid being caught in a romance scam:
- Protect your identity and your wallet. Scammers prefer prepaid cards and money transfers.
- Think before going from public to private. Be hesitant if the conversation moves from a dating site to a more private form of communication like email or text message.
- Ask for details and request other forms of identification.