Rip-off Romeos and sweetheart swindles

Valentine's Day consumer warning

CLEVELAND - Valentine's Day is a unique day for celebrating love and expressing feelings and appreciation for the special people in our lives. Unfortunately, it is also an opportune time for scam artists to take advantage of consumers and steal their hearts along with their money.

Rip Off Romeos:  Millions of Americans utilize online dating sites to search for that perfect match and it can be a very successful way to meet someone special. Scammers are also taking note of these sites though and targeting singles of any age and location. This is accomplished through the creation of fake profiles designed to steal identity information, financial details or simply money.

BBB Tip: Do not fall for someone who is quick to develop a relationship and claim instant feelings of love. Scammers use emotional ties to increase the chances of their success. If your match asks for money to cover travel expenses or has a sudden emergency requiring an extensive amount of money, there is a high probability that it is a scam. Do not wire money or provide bank account numbers or other personal information in response to such pleas.

Personal Matchmaking: Dating or matching service memberships can cost thousands of dollars. Complaints reported to BBB primarily concern dissatisfaction with the matches provided and difficulty cancelling contracts. When choosing a personal matchmaking company that promises introductions to area singles with specified criteria, it is important to do research beforehand and to be cautious.

BBB Tip: Gather information about the company's history and reputation before meeting with a company representative to discuss the services provided. Inquire about the manner in which introductions are made, the company's confidentiality policies and your cancelation rights if you are dissatisfied with the service. Do not commit to signing a contract until you read and understand it completely.

Phishing E-mails and E-Card Viruses:  As Feb. 14 approaches, everyone expects the usual notes of love or e-cards to arrive via email. Cyber-crooks are well aware of this and use this time of year to trick those who are love-struck into divulging personal and financial information through false alerts from florists or fake greeting card websites that actually download viruses to steal personal information.

BBB Tip: Only open emails, attachments, and links from people you know. Enhance email filters to block any such threats. Watch out for unsolicited emails with subject lines such as, Someone just sent you an e-card or Send your loved one a Valentine's Day card today. If you ordered flowers and receive an email indicating a problem, directly contact the florist to ensure the e-mail is legitimate - chances are it is not.

The BBB encourages consumers to make informed, pre-purchase decisions, especially around Valentine's Day, by doing their research and checking out businesses online through a company's at or by calling 216-241-7678.

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