When springtime love is in the air, con artists flock to dating websites

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As spring approaches, many people are looking for a fresh start with a new partner, however, looking for love can be difficult at times, and according to Connecticut Better Business Bureau, dating services and websites attract not only romantics, but scammers as well.

Con artists will spend weeks or months interacting with vulnerable singles to gain their trust, with the goal of getting their targets to send money for any one of a variety of reasons. The scammers may even send gifts to show their dedication to the “relationship” before asking for money or personal or financial information because of some sort of medical emergency or personal or family hardship. They may even ask for credit card information to book a flight to visit – but that visit never happens.

Fortunately, there are clear warning signs that the object of your affection is a fraud:

Fast love – Within one or two communications, they profess strong feelings, including love, and encourage you to move off of a dating site. Con artists’ prefer to communicate by text or telephone, instead of leaving their trail online.

Promises, promises – Your would-be soul mate promises to meet face to face, but the meeting never materializes. They are interested in money – not romance.

Their profile doesn’t add up – Their profile photo may have been lifted from somewhere else or doesn’t match their own description.

Hard luck story – Dating scammers weave elaborate stories to explain why they need you to wire money or provide credit card information. If you don’t send money, telephone calls, emails and messages become more frequent and more urgent.

Aside from scams, Better Business Bureau receives complaints about dating services because of billing problems, unsuitable or disappointing match recommendations for dates, poor customer service, and advertising and refund issues. Consumers also file complaints about difficulty cancelling a contract and repeated billing, even though they took the steps required to cancel.

BBB offers the following advice on matchmaking and online dating services:

  • Don’t fall in love with the advertising – Be skeptical of claims such as “an exclusive network of people,” “for sincere daters only” or “beautiful singles just like you.” BBB’s National Advertising Division required one dating service to stop advertising that its methods were based on “the latest science of attraction.”
  • Don’t give in to high-pressure sales tacticsSales associates may tell you that a low price is only good for that day and ask you to sign a contract immediately. You should read the contract carefully and make sure you understand it.
  • Know how to break up – Consumers should not assume that billing will stop once the contract runs out. Many online dating sites automatically renew memberships. Usually you must call the company or send written instructions to stop subsequent billing. Read cancellation policies before you sign up.
  • Beware of requests or demands by a match to send money – Some scams that match men with foreign women typically include a request to send money to pay for a trip to the United States, using a wire transfer service like MoneyGram or Western Union. The woman never makes the trip, and the money can’t be recovered.

Like any other transaction, BBB encourages consumers to research a dating service at bbb.org before signing a contract.

Howard Schwartz,  Executive Communications Director

CT Better Business Bureau