Law enforcement, BBB offer tips on how to avoid online romance scams

Consumer Watch

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) Members of law enforcement and The Better Business Bureau are offering tips on how to avoid romance scams this Valentine’s Day.

BBB says, ” Online dating and social media have made it easier than ever to meet new people and find dates. Con artists create compelling backstories, and full-fledged identities, then trick you into falling for someone who doesn’t even exist.”

The FBI is also working to raise awareness about these types of scams, also known as ‘confidence fraud.’ They suggest never sending money to someone you do not know personally.

The Pitt County Sheriff’s Office is also working to raise awareness about online romance scams.

“Watch out for the characters who seem overly eager, who seem to be constantly positive, who seem to be not local,” said Sergeant Lee Darnell. “They carry out a long elaborate scam – these things can go on for months.”

Officials encourage you to research a person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the materials pops up somewhere else.

“They know that you are there to find someone and they can create whatever persona they want to get you hooked,” said Darnell.

If you suspect you are being involved in an online romance scam you can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office. You can also reach out to your local law enforcement office for assistance.

Information from The Better Business Bureau: How the Scam Works

Most romance scams start with fake profiles on online dating sites created by stealing photos and text from real accounts or elsewhere. Scammers often claim to be in the military or working overseas to explain why they can’t meet you in person. Over a short period of time, the scammer builds a fake relationship with you, exchanging photos and romantic messages, even talking on the phone or through a webcam.

Just when the relationship seems to be getting serious, your new sweetheart has a health issue or family emergency or wants to plan a visit. No matter the story, the request is the same: they need money. But after you send money, there’s another request, and then another. Or the scammer stops communicating altogether.

Tips to Spot This Scam:

Too hot to be true. Scammers offer up good-looking photos and tales of financial success. Be honest with yourself about who would be genuinely interested. If they seem “too perfect,” your alarm bells should ring.

In a hurry to get off the site. Catfishers will try very quickly to get you to move to communicate through email, text message or over the phone.

Moving fast. A catfisher will begin speaking of a future together and tell you they love you quickly. They often say they’ve never felt this way before.

Talk about trust. Catfishers will start manipulating you with talk about trust and how important it is. This will often be a first step to asking you for money.

Don’t want to meet. Be wary of someone who always has an excuse to postpone the meeting in person because they say they are traveling, live overseas or are serving in the military.

Suspect language. If the person you are communicating with claims to be from your hometown but has poor spelling or grammar, uses overly flowery language, or uses phrases that don’t make sense, that’s a red flag. A large number of scammers are from overseas and English is not their first language.

Hard luck stories. Before moving on to asking you for money, the scammer may hint at financial troubles and provide a story that pulls at the heartstrings. Examples of stories range being cut off, their car being stolen, they are taking care of a sick relative, or they may share a sad story from their past (death of parents or spouse, etc.).

Protect Yourself From This Scam:

●    Never send money or personal information that can be used for identity theft to someone you’ve never met in person. Never give someone your credit card information to book a ticket to visit you. Cut off contact if someone starts asking you for information like credit card numbers, bank accounts, or government ID numbers.

●    Ask specific questions about details given in a profile. A scammer may stumble over remembering details or making a story fit.

●    Do your research. Many scammers steal photos from the web to use in their profiles. You can do a reverse image lookup using a website like or 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.

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