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Love is in the air, and so are romance scams!

From the Better Business Bureau of Central Virginia:

With Valentine’s Day looming, romance is in the air. If you decide to seek love via a dating app, watch for the scammers; they only love your money.

The CARES Act funding is helping Americans with the COVID-19 pandemic by providing increased unemployment benefits and other support. Unfortunately, some of that money is ending up in the hands of scammers. These con artists are also using people to funnel money out of the country. This con may look like a classic romance scam, but victims are tricked into illegal activity and can be prosecuted.

How the Scam Works:

You join a dating app and start messaging with someone who looks amazing. They are the complete package! After chatting for a little while, your new love interest suggests you chat on text or email rather than through the app. If you do, you may notice that they also delete their dating profile.

Everything seems great, but soon your new beau has some unusual, but seemingly harmless, requests. They want you to receive money for them and then wire it overseas. They may claim to be helping a loved one battling COVID-19, doing a business deal, or representing a charitable organization. If you refuse, your amorous new beau may suddenly get hostile, threaten you or grow distant.

It turns out that the money they want you to receive is actually stolen CARES Act funds. After stealing it, scammers send the money through someone in the United States to make it harder for authorities to trace. Money laundering and wire fraud are illegal. Although the “money mule” is probably also a victim, that won’t relieve them from facing prosecution.

Protect Yourself From this Scam:

  • Do your research. Many scammers steal photos from the internet to use in their dating profiles. You can do a reverse image lookup using a website, like Google Images, to see if the photos on a profile are stolen from somewhere else. You can also search online for a profile name, email, or phone number to see what adds up and what doesn’t. Scammers most often pose as men and target women in their 50s and 60s.
  • Ask specific questions about details given in a profile. A scammer may stumble over remembering details or making a story fit.
  • Never send money or sensitive personal information to someone you’ve never met in person. Cut off contact if someone starts asking you for financial or personally identifiable information (PII), like your credit card number, bank routing number, or government ID numbers.
  • Be very suspicious of requests to wire money or use a prepaid debit card. These are scammers’ favorite ways to send payments because, like cash, once the money is gone, it can’t be recovered.

For More Information

Find more information in this romance scams study from BBB and these romance scam tips.

Learn more about money mule scams on the Federal Bureau of Investigations website.

To learn more about scams related to the coronavirus and how to protect yourself from them, see the BBB Coronavirus news page.

If you’ve been the victim of a scam, please report it on the BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help others to stay alert and avoid similar scams.

 

About BBB: BBB serving Central Virginia serves Richmond, the Tri-Cities, Charlottesville, and Fredericksburg, as well as 42 surrounding counties from Fauquier to Mecklenburg and Northumberland to Amherst. The nonprofit organization was established in 1954 to advance responsible, honest, and ethical business practices and to promote customer confidence through self-regulation of business. Core services of BBB include business profiles, dispute resolution, truth-in advertising, scam warnings, consumer and business education, and charity review.

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