Romance scams: How to avoid a broken heart and breaking the bank

Published: Feb. 11, 2022 at 10:36 PM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - No one wants to go through heartbreak, especially the kind that also breaks the bank.

Heading into Valentine’s Day weekend, police and the Better Business Bureau is warning people of an increasingly more common type of fraud: one involving romance.

The Federal Trade Commission just released new data on this. In 2020, people conned $304 million in romance scams. That was up 50% from 2019. The key to stopping yourself from falling victim: catching the red flags.

Some can be someone who professes their love quickly or claims to need money for an emergency.

“You know you can search through social media profiles, so if any red flags pop out to you,” said Huntsville Police Public Information Officer Rosalind White.

After meeting someone on a dating app or through social media White advises you to do your research on the person to make sure nothing contradicts what they’re telling you.

And the number one rule: never send someone money you haven’t met.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, requests for gift cards and wire transfers are the most common way victims hand over money, dollars they most likely won’t get back.

Huntsville attorney Will League says, “without a contract, you would not have a legal claim to recoup your money.”

League says a contract could be a written promise such as a text from the scammer saying they’ll pay you back. However, there are different rules for different states.

And that’s only if you can track the scammer down.

“There’s a lot of ways they can hide their identity, so it makes it hard to track it back to the actual person who’s doing the scam. So you pretty much lose that money most of the time when you send it,” White said.

A spokesperson with the BBB says if you have fallen victim to this scam, immediately contact your bank and file a claim with them.

Some more safety tips, if you are meeting someone for the first time you met online, always meet in public and tell a friend where you are going.

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