Beware of Romance Scam ahead of Valentine's Day

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WESTON, W.Va (WDTV) — With love in the air, you need to watch out for the Romance Scam.

It's a common scam that tricks people into thinking they're in a romantic relationship, where the scammer is really just trying to get money.

"A lot of times these scams will seem too good to be true because they really are — they're too good to be true," said Weston Police Chief Josh Thomas.

Keep a close eye on your wallet and financial information over the next few days, especially if you're single or in the market for love. In a world where online dating and meeting people over the internet is at an all-time high, the danger of being scammed is at a high too.

"If you're into the online dating thing, get to know the person," Thomas said. "It's unusual for them to ask for money relatively quickly."

"Typically it's going to be widowed, elderly people," Thomas said of who usually is targeted for the scam. "It could be either male or female. The scammer could be either male or female, and the target could either be male or female."

The best course of action is like any scam. Be extra careful about who you're talking to and try and beware of their tactics and mechanisms. Thomas says there are warning signs.

"The amount of money they're asking for, the reason they're asking for it, and how do they want the money delivered," Thomas said.

Thomas says his department has handled cases similar to the Romance Scam.

"They had stolen the credit card information of someone who lived in Weston and they were making purchases on the internet with that stolen credit card and then and they were sending those purchases to a person they had shown romantic interest in," Thomas said.

Last year, people reported losing $143 million to romance scams across the U.S., which is higher than any other type of scam.

Most commonly, a scammer will work to woo someone on a dating app or social media, even stealing photos to appear like a real person, and slowly building trust with their victim. The payoff for the long effort can be worth it to them, because those who fell victim in 2018 reported a median loss of $2,600.

Here are some tips from the FTC on how to avoid romance scams:

• Never send money or gifts to a sweetheart you haven’t met in person.
• Take it slowly. Ask questions and look for inconsistent answers. Check the person’s photo using your search engine’s “search by image” feature. If the same picture shows up with a different name, that’s a red flag.
• Talk to someone about this new love interest. And pay attention if your friends or family are concerned.
• If you suspect a romance scam, cut off contact right away. Then, report to the scam to the FTC at http://www.ftc.gov/complaint. Notify the dating site where you met the scammer, too.