February 12, 2013 - Valentine’s Day is an opportune time for scammers to use romance (or the search for it) as bait for various frauds. Better Business Bureau is urging consumers to proceed with caution before letting their hearts – and their money – get stolen.
BBB offers these tips to stay safe from romance scams:
Conniving Catfishing – A new label for an old scam, catfishing occurs when a scammer assumes a persona on a social networking site and creates a fictitious identity using the pictures, hobbies, interests and even friends of someone else. While the purpose for doing so varies, the most common progression of this scam is the development of a relationship in hopes that the scammer will be able to ask for and receive money from their unsuspecting love interest. This scam has grown with the popularity and increased use of social media sites and can target those who may be lonely on Valentine’s Day.
BBB Tip: If you begin corresponding with someone online, be cautious of anyone who proclaims instant feelings of love, claims to be from the U.S. but is currently overseas and is continually cancelling face-to-face visits because of tragic or unexpected events. Be suspicious if the person hints that they are in financial trouble or if you are asked to wire transfer money. Never wire your own money unless you know and trust the receiver on the other end. Do a search of the name, text of a message or profile description in Google to see if similar information is used by others. Some criminals create multiple profiles and use the same information over and over.
Faulty Florists –Valentine’s Day still ranks first for fresh flower purchases and is the number one holiday for florists, according to aboutflowers.com. Not all florists are equal in the level of service they provide though, and typical complaints concern flowers not being delivered as promised or recipients receiving the wrong arrangements.
BBB Tip: Confirm that the florist you are placing an order with is actually the florist fulfilling the order and who your contact should be for follow-up communication. Ensure that you have the florist’s accurate street address and phone number in case you need to adjust your order. It is not uncommon for a third party to be involved with fulfillment during periods of high demand. Request a written receipt for the order and get the business’s refund policy in writing if a delivery is late, incorrect, never arrives or is in poor condition. Place your order as soon as possible to allow adequate time for shipping and verify the delivery date and time.
Pesky Package Phishing – Many consumers order Valentine’s Day gifts and have them automatically shipped to loved ones as a surprise. Cyber criminals are well-aware of this shopping trend though and are creating phony package delivery phishing emails. The emails can be very official looking, fraudulently using trusted companies’ logos to trick consumers into divulging personal information that can be used for identity theft. Usual emails claim that the recipient must click on a link or enter personal or financial information to re-confirm the order or that there was an issue with billing and you account information must be re-entered.
BBB Tip: If you receive an email about a package or delivery that you do not expect or did not send, do not open it. If you suspect that someone sent you a package and you are receiving an email delivery confirmation, verify with the shipping company on the phone through their known telephone number, not one listed in the email, before opening the message. Be especially careful with any unexpected emails that ask you to download items or click on website links.
Evil E-cards – E-cards are a popular way for consumers to send funny or thoughtful greetings to loved ones around Valentine’s Day. Due to their popularity, scammers have been known to setup fake emails directing the receiver to a bogus website that appears to be a lot like Hallmark or American Greetings. Recipients who open the E-card may be prompted to download software needed to view the card. If this program is installed however, it will download a virus that can provide a scammer with full access to computer files and personal information.
BBB Tip: Pay close attention to links and files before clicking or downloading them. Verify that any web address you are being directed to is where you intend to visit by hovering your mouse over the link first to see where it is actually taking you. Enhance email filters and maintain updated anti-virus and malware software. Overall, be sure to only open E-cards from people that you know and trust.
For more information on scams, check out BBB Scam Stopper at www.bbb.org/scam.