Valentine’s Day: scammers using affection on dating websites to get money from victims

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Valentine’s Day brings a surge of activity on dating websites. 

Scammers are using affection to manipulate their victims out of money. 

Online romance scams often escalate as scammers turn their victims into unwitting accomplices to fraud, known as “money mules.” 

Experts report that at any given time, there may be more than 25,000 romance scammers online targeting victims. 

Chris Babin, with the Better Business Bureau of Acadiana, said, “There’s a lot of people out there looking for that love connection and a lot of times it’s on dating websites sometimes social media fraudsters and scammers know that and sometimes they are setting up fake profiles fake identities and posing to be your new love connection or your new emotional partner and in the end, they’re looking to get money from you.” 

According to the Better Business Bureau, 20-30% of romance scam victims were used as “money mules” in 2018 alone. 

 “They send them a fake check and try to get them to go cash it at the bank and in turn give them the money and they’re using their emotional connections that they established with them as a way to coax them to be cooperative with that,” added Babin. 

Romance scammers typically contact their victims through dating websites, apps, or social media, even creating fake profiles, so News 10 went to ULL’s campus to see just what students think about that. 

University of Louisiana at Lafayette student Ali Breaux, said, “I think it’s good for people who don’t really like to go out. It gives them an advantage to meet other people.” 

News 10 asked, “Have you heard anything about who may have used them in the past before… any bad things happening to them?” 

Breaux explained, “No. I haven’t really heard any bad things. My friend had met her husband from Tinder though.” 

News 10 asked, “Do you feel like people should maybe meet in person as opposed to dating apps?” 

Student Derek Germillion said, “Yeah.” 

“It would probably help,” student Scout Passman added. 

Germillion said, “It would make relationships more real at this age because I feel like they’re not anymore.” 

“You realize this new romance relationship is not real and on top of that you’ve got this tangled web of financial responsibilities and things that you didn’t sign up for and money missing and money that you’re probably not going to get back,” explained Babin. 

Here are some tips from the Better Business Bureau to avoid these online romance scams:   

  • When you get involved in an online relationship, try to verify the identity of that person by possibly checking to see if they have a Facebook or other social media site.  

  • Try to meet the person whom you’re talking online to in person. Many of the people who fall suspect to these scams never actually meet the individual in person. 

  • Try not to let your emotions make a decision that you wouldn’t normally make otherwise. 

The Better Business Bureau said as law enforcement cracks down on romance and other frauds, prosecuting more of these scams’ perpetrators in recent years, money mules at times have been prosecuted as well, facing jail time and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and restitution payments. 

Cybersecurity experts have traced the bulk of online romance scams to Nigeria… though Nigeria nationals operating these frauds are based in several countries around the world, including the U.S.

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