Valentine's Day is right around the corner, and more and more people are turning to their computers to find new relationships. In fact, more than 41.2 million people in the U.S. tried an online dating site in 2014. It's a $1.2 billion business.
Dating sites offer convenience and, in some cases, anonymity. But these two ingredients can present a perfect combination for scams to occur. You may feel you get to know someone through photos, email or chatting, but it's easy for the person at the other end of the keyboard to conceal the truth.
Last year, more than 4,000 complaints were filed with BBB regarding dating sites. Many were for billing issues, cancellation issues, not enough matches, or being the victim of a scam or catfishing by other members.
"Many dating sites may promise to find you the person of your dreams," said Warren Clark, president of BBB of Upstate New York. "Some people have found happiness, yet many complaints filed with our office are claiming contract trouble, poor quality in matches offered or the number of dates they were able to make. Always use caution when logging on to a dating site."
The unscrupulous count on vulnerable people and those looking for love, since they tend to let their guard down. These people want to take advantage of your personal information or gain financial support. Caution is your best friend when getting to know someone online.
This type of deception isn't just limited to dating sites, but on
social media as well. These scammers will go to great lengths to create a
believable story. They will use stolen photos and information to make the
person believe they are who they say they are.
BBB offers the following advice for people looking for love online:
•Research a site or an app thoroughly. While doing your research, request the guidelines the company follows in screening its applicants. For example, does the service conduct a criminal background check for each person? Also, ask friends about their experiences with online dating sites.
•Take the time to research your matches. If any red flags are raised in your communication with someone, check his or her name on any search engine (such as Google or Bing) and on social media. You also can take a part of the suspicious email and copy and paste it into a search engine to see if it has been associated with any other scams.
•Never send anyone money. Often times, once scammers gain your trust, they will share a story of financial difficulty. Never send money to someone you have not met in person. It is difficult to get money back from someone who may be misrepresenting himself once it has been sent.
•Use caution with those who want to take your conversation off the dating site immediately. Many times, scammers will attempt to lure you off the dating site to continue communication using personal email accounts.
•Read the signs. Be cautious of individuals who claim to have fallen instantly in love, or who say they are traveling or working overseas. Beware of people who prey on your emotions by claiming to be trapped in a foreign country or involved in an emergency, and needing you to send them money. This is a red flag for a catfishing scam.
•Meet in person. If it's possible, ask to meet in person, maybe to a group outing and always in a safe, public place. If the individual offers various excuses or refuses to meet, this may be a sign he or she is not who they say they are.
•Know how to "break up" with a dating site. People should not assume billing will stop once the contract runs out, since many online dating sites automatically renew memberships. Read the contract in detail and send written cancellation notice to avoid being billed again.
•Check with us. Hundreds of BBB business reviews for dating services can be found at bbb.org. BBB now includes complaint detail and customer reviews in BBB business reviews. To view consumer experiences, click on the BBB business review, then click on the individual tabs.
For scam alerts, tips and other information "you can trust," visit bbb.org.