Wednesday is Valentine’s Day, a time to celebrate love and romance. For many people though a real loving and romantic connection can be as elusive as a snowstorm in July. 

Last year the United States Surgeon General stated that loneliness, isolation, and lack of connection are at epidemic proportions in our country and can lead to premature death at the same rate as smoking does. It makes sense then that people experiencing loneliness are often the targets of scam artists who take advantage of their longing to find a partner. The Better Business Bureau is advising people to be cautious and alert to romance scams, which tend to increase in the days leading up to Cupid’s holiday. 

Most romance scams begin with fake profiles posted to online dating sites, while others begin when a stranger makes contact on social media. In both cases, the profiles depict the scammer in a light too good to be true, because they are. Scammers will post photos stolen from real accounts or stock photos available on the Internet and pass them off as their own. They may claim to be in the military or live a long distance away as an excuse to avoid meeting up in person. 

They will build a fake relationship with their target and at one point declare a health issue or other emergency as a way to ask for money. More requests for money often follow before the scammer finally disappears. Victims in the United States and Canada have reported losing nearly $1 billion to romance scammers in recent years. 

“Sadly, scammers often take advantage of the human desire to have emotional connections. We all want to love and be loved, but sometimes infatuation can cloud our better judgment, so it’s important to keep yourself educated about common romance scams,” said Melanie Duquesnel, President and CEO of Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.   

The following are some behaviors love scammers often display, according to the BBB: 

  • Presenting themselves as too good looking or successful to be true. 
  • Moving quickly to communicate through email, messenger, or phone. Being too fast to express loving feelings, and say things like, “I have never felt this way before.”
  • Repeatedly bringing up the importance of trust. 
  • Finding excuses not to meet in person.
  • And sharing hard luck stories about themselves to gain sympathy. 
  • To avoid becoming a victim of a love scam, never send money or personal information to people you do not know. 

Ask specific questions about details given in a profile because a scammer may stumble over remembering details or making a story fit.
Finally, if a new person comes into your life online, do some research. Perform a reverse image search of their profiles photos and use a search engine to find out more about the name they have given you.