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Is your online sweetheart a scammer?

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As lovers and those looking for love prepare to celebrate Valentine’s Day, AARP’s Fraud Watch Network releases new tips on how you can protect yourself from scammers from taking aim at your heart and pocketbooks.

Scamming thousands of men and women each year – most over age 40 – romance swindles consistently make Top Scams lists, including those of the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center ( www.ic3.gov). The average per-victim loss is $10,000, according to MoneyGram. Other Valentine’s Day cons include: phony e-cards, sham flower sales and a rumored cash-on-delivery scam.

AARP urges you to watch out for these 4 scams:

Online Dating Scams: With 38 percent of singles who are looking for love having used online dating sites, it is critical to beware of these signs and remember your “sweetheart” could be a scammer:

  • Wants to leave the dating site immediately upon meeting and quickly asks for an e-mail address, phone number, or instant messaging username.
  • Professes true love after just a few contacts.
  • Has a profile that seems too good to be true, including a supermodel-worthy photo.
  • Won’t answer basic questions about where they live and work. Or, claims that he or she is a U.S. citizen who is abroad, is wealthy, or is a person of important status.
  • Asks for money, multiple times (and, usually through a wire transfer) to pay for travel, a child or other relative’s hospital bills, recovery from a temporary financial setback, or expenses while a big business deal comes through.
  • Communicates in a more desperate, persistent, or angry way if you don’t send money immediately.

 

Tips to protect yourself:

  • Don’t send money or give credit card or online account details to anyone they don’t know.
  • Be careful about what personal information they share online.
  • Report suspected fraudsters to the dating website or chat room operator.

 

Bogus ECards: Electronic greeting cards are an easy way for scammers to infect a computer with malware that gives them remote access to a person’s files, online banking accounts, and passwords, putting them at risk for identity theft.

Tips to protect yourself:

  • Don’t click on links, especially when they’re from an unnamed person or secret admirer.
  • Steer clear of names and senders you don’t recognize.
  • Even if you recognize the sender’s name, go to the card company’s website to open the card; usually you’ll receive a confirmation code you can use to open the Ecard.

 

Fake Flowers: Scammers will sometimes pose as a local florist and then charge hidden or inflated fees. Or, you may get an e-mail from a supposed florist containing harmful links that lead to phony sites

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looking to steal personal and credit card information in exchange for huge discounts.

Tips to protect yourself:

  • Use a florist you trust and know; get referrals from friends and check for complaints with the Idaho Better Business Bureau.
  • Ask for a detailed receipt for any florist you use online and make sure that the fees for the florist who's actually fulfilling your order are fully disclosed—third parties are often used around holidays.
  • Pay by credit card so if there's a problem you can dispute it with your card issuer.
  • Don’t fall for and click on email links that could release malware onto your computer and put you at risk for identity theft.

 

Cash on Delivery: Law enforcement across the country report con artists are delivering flowers and wine baskets to unsuspecting Valentines, demanding that a charge must be paid because alcohol is being delivered. The charge is minimal, under $5, but the delivery person won’t accept cash, only a credit card. With the account information, the scammer can run up thousands in fraudulent charges.

Tips to protect yourself:

  • There is no special charge for delivered alcohol.

 

Protect your heart and your wallet this Valentine's Day. If you feel threatened or fall victim, report it with the Idaho Fraud Awareness Coalition.

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