Scam Targeting Singles Looking For Love - KAUZ-TV: Newschannel 6 Now | Wichita Falls, TX

Scam Targeting Singles Looking For Love

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With Valentine's Day coming up on Friday, single people looking for love are common targets for scammers.

The scam, often known as "catfishing" is when cyber criminals utilize social media and online dating sites to make victims think they are in love and then tricks them into sending money.

Many people know they shouldn't send money to people they don't know online, but Director of Operations at the Better Business Bureau Cosme Ojeda II said, when it comes to matters of the heart, sometimes logic is thrown out the window for a love interest.

"They're looking for that connection and that's what scammers prey upon because when we're looking for something like that, then we are opening ourselves up making us vulnerable at that time," said Ojeda II.

The scam has been around for the past six years and has affected people nationwide, targeting men and women equally.

"You think you're talking to someone who is interested in you socially," said Ojeda II "but on the other end is a scammer."

Most cases of catfishing start with the scammer asking for small amounts of cash.  However, that can escalate into the victim handing over their banking information as well as their social security number. Some severe cases have left victims financially broke.  However, Ojeda II said there are signs to identify the scam.

"If they won't give you a phone number to contact them or they won't Facetime or Skype you, that's a sign.  They won't reveal their identity," he said.  

Here are some other signs to watch from your online love interest:
  • Asks to talk or chat through an outside email or messaging service, allowing the criminal to perform scams without the dating site having a record of the encounter
  •  Claims to be from this country but is currently traveling, living or working abroad.
  •  Identifies as a military personnel or a college student
  •  Asks you for money, credit card information or social security number
  •  Sends you emails containing questionable links to third-party websites
  •  Declares love for you quickly
Ojeda II said online dating sites are still great ways to meet people, but users have to be smart and on guard.

"Be aware.  Do yourself diligence and find out who they are," he said.

According to the Justice Department, people lost more than $55-million to catfishing and other romance scams in 2012.  During that year, the department received more than 4,467 complaints of romantic cyber criminals.

If you think you've become a victim of catfishing, contact law enforcement and the Better Business Bureau at (940) 691-1174 or visit their website here. 

Cynthia Kobayashi, Newschannel 6.