AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - Spring has sprung and love may be in the air, but local experts say digital daters need to be weary of romance scams.
Online dating has become popular for singles seeking a companion, but many fall victim to online scam artists instead.
Over a few months, these people build relationships, make promises, say 'I love you,' and then strike when the time is right. They ask for money claiming to be in a financial hardship, and once they receive payment the relationship is over.
"People are asked for bank account information or credit card information," said Janna Kiehl, CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Amarillo. "You have to wonder why. I mean if you're dating someone offline and you know someone in town that you're dating after the first few dates they typically don't ask you for that information, 'What's your credit card number' or 'What's your bank account number?' So if that's asked online, that's definitely a red flag and hopefully people will be aware of that."
Not only are scammers having their "partners" send them money, they are now stealing identities as well.
"People a lot of times will try to take your money and they try to take advantage of the situation that you present for them, but I think that stealing your identity is a very real threat out there because they want you to help them let's say in a business transaction or business venture and they start to get a lot of personal information and if they have that they'll definitely use it against you."
When talking with people online, be aware of questions asking about your favorite color, name of your first pet, or name of the street you grew up on. While phrases like these are used as ice-breakers, you may revealing answers to security questions asking the same thing.
If a scammers leaves you with a broken heart and empty wallet, what happens to them? Are they held responsible for scamming you?
"It's going to be very hard to prove that as a crime when you willfully [give someone money] it almost ends up being more of a civil matter because you're willfully giving somebody your money or property," said Cpl.Terry Meck with the Amarillo Police Department. "If it's an intentional scam there may be other federal laws that apply, but it's going to be very hard to prosecute them at a local level."
Be sure always report scams to the police.
"It should be reported, as it might be more of an organized type of scam, and like I said there may be other federal laws that come into play," Meck said. "We're going to caution anybody against giving anybody that you've never met and that you're unfamiliar with any information, money, basically limiting that access into your personal life or your personal finances until you actually know that person's intentions are."
Sometimes people are too embarrassed to report these scams, but there is a way for people to report scams and conceal their identity by using the BBB's scam tracker.
"They can just go online and see other scams and other people that have been scammed in their immediate area, may be something similar has happened to them and they can report it there," Kiehl said. "No names or other identifiable information is published, and they're pretty secure as far as nobody knowing who they are, but they will be helping other by reporting it."
When dating online, Kiehl suggests taking things slow and keeping these scams in mind.
"Whether it's online or a specific app the potential is there especially, if you're meeting strangers," Kiehl said. "That's what these apps and these online dating services are for. People want to meet other people, so I think people just have to be careful and go slowly into that relationship and check everything out first."