Ahh, February: a time of love, romance, and, according to the Better Business Bureau in Minnesota, scams.
With Valentine's Day nearly upon us, the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota is warning the lovestruck about "romance scams."
Here's how they work.
Typically, such schemes begin on social media or dating websites, where "unscrupulous individuals" look to defraud people by pretending to be a potential love interest.
After gaining the victim's trust, the BBB says, the scammer starts asking for money – say, for a plane ticket to meet the victim – and soon comes up with excuses and stories as to why they need more. The group says older people or those who aren't "tech savvy" are often targeted.
The con is sometimes known as "catfishing," according to FOX 6.
Experts agree there are many warning signs. SCAMwatch says a reliable red flag is the scammer's request to move the conversation to the telephone or an email service outside the dating site where it began.
The website also says romance scammers aren't exactly Shakespeare – their emails are often poorly written and contain vague, repetitive information. Still, there's evidence that many are patient and go in for the long con.
"Some of these scammers spend a year in a relationship with you before they ask for money. They tell their victims everything they want to hear," investigator and author Sofija Stefanovic told the Daily Mail.
“Romance scams are a double whammy,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of the Minnesota and North Dakota BBB. “They hit victims financially and emotionally, and the consequences are often devastating.”
A good rule of thumb, the BBB says, is to never send money to someone you’ve never met in person.