Consumer protection advocates are warning singles to be cautious when trying to make a dating connection, especially as Valentine's Day approaches. Single, widowed, and recently divorced people are at high risk of falling for internet romance scams, says the Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection.
In many cases, scammers develop a relationship with the victim by using e-mail, social media and/or a dating site. They may even send pictures of other people and can spend months gaining the trust of the victim.
The scammer may periodically ask for money and may even pay it back to build up trust, authorities said. As the relationship develops, the scammer may ask for larger quantities of money or may plan a face-to-face meeting with the victim. The swindler will ask the victim to wire the money to him or her, and, if travel plans are involved, the scammer will ask for financial help to cover the travel expenses.
The scammer may continue asking for money until the victim can no longer send money or they may simply stop all communication, leaving the victim with losses in the thousands.
The Office of Consumer Protection urges singles to:
- Use only legitimate dating sites. Do your research on the dating service as well as on your possible romantic connection.
- Do not send money or provide your personal information to anyone that you do not trust.
- Only wire money to people that you have met and trust. Once money has been wired, you are unlikely to recover it.
- Consider using a video communications service to verify that the person in the photo that you received is actually the person with whom you are communicating.
For more information, contact the Office of Consumer Protection at (240) 777-3636, Email:firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit OCP’s website at http://montgomerycountymd.gov/OCP.