Beware of romance scams and fake online dating profiles this Valentine's Day

Romance is in the air with Valentine's Day just a few days away, and you know who's looking for love? Scammers.

It's one of the harsh realities of online dating: Scammers posing as singles trying to take your money.

Romance scams continue to hit people hard, with consumers losing nearly $1 billion over the last three years. With the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are using dating sites or apps to find love.

A red flag to watch out for is when some asks to communicate off of the dating site and then they fish for personal information, or for you to send them money or gift cards.

Also, remember that scammers aren't always who they portray in the pictures they send.

Alyssa Parker with the Better Business Bureau of Eastern North Carolina says, "You can actually do a reverse google image search. You can do a reverse image lookup using a website like tineye.com or you can use images.google.com to see if the photos on a profile are stolen from somewhere else."

If that picture shows up for a number of different profiles, that's a sure sign it's a scam.

Another red flag is hard-luck stories of sudden job loss or losing a family member and they need your help. Also, scammers often pretend to be in the military or working overseas so they postpone meetings.

In one recent case, an ABC11 viewer was contacted by a scammer through an online game of scrabble. This BBB study gives much more detailed information on where the scams originate, how the scammers trick their victims, and how they get their money. It also details what we know about victims, such as why they fall for the scams and how they can be pulled into other scams.

Besides monetary loss, these romance scams often cause emotional stress, so be very careful if you're looking for love this Valentine's Day.
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