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Romance scams

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From the street vendors with their bunches of flowers to the hearts hanging from ceilings, door frames and even around necks (that one was a tie) to the boxes of (hopefully) good chocolate, Americans are inundated with the message of love.  It’s hard not to be aware of the lack of romance in your life when we are just days from the day that celebrates everything romantic.  There’s a Johnny Lee song about looking for love in all the wrong places and while the song ends on a high note, not every search or searcher is so lucky.  Here are a few scams to watch out for when you’re looking for love:

Dating websites.  Yep, they aren’t just for the young and the reckless.  The fastest growing group of online daters according to a study out of Bowling Green State University is the over 60 group.  The average per-victim loss from a romance scam is $26,000.  But, according to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, loss of funds is not the only cost.  Some victims have agreed to meet with an online love interest only to later be reported missing, injured or even deceased.  Then there’s the request for sex acts using webcams that are then used to blackmail individuals.  Here’s a support group for people who’ve been scammed online if you have fallen victim.  It’s useful because it provides information about scammers, the kinds of things they say, write or post and what you can do in case you are scammed.

Online greeting cards.  Who doesn’t love to read a card from a loved one?  Electronic greeting cards are nearly as popular as the paper ones.  Unfortunately, according to the Greeting Card Association, a trade organization representing the interests of greeting card, gift wrapping paper and stationery manufacturers, our enthusiasm for those cards has made millions of American consumers the victims of phishing scams, viruses or malicious software.  Legitimate electronic card companies provide the full name or personal e-mail address of the sender and will provide a way to collect the card directly from their website without having to click on a link.  They offer these suggestions for safe retrieval of an e-card:

  • Manually type the name of the card publisher’s website URL into your browser window (for example, Do not “cut and paste” the link into your browser
  • Locate the “e-card pick up” area on the publisher’s website.
  • Take the card number or retrieval code information from the e-mail and enter it into the appropriate box or boxes on the publisher’s e-card pick-up area.
  • If there is no card awaiting you, the e-mail you received was a scam. Delete it.

Facebook.  It’s a popular site for the over 60 set.  Sorry kids.  But, it’s also likely to get you a hard luck story.  One group of people especially used by scammers is the military.  They have so many scams using military men and women as the person doing the “ask” that there is a Facebook site called Military Romances.  If someone from the military contacts you to get money to come home, get out of the military, or to pay for health care or equipment, it’s a scam.

Check here for more scams from AARP.


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