Romance scams are on the rise, BBB says – NBC Chicago

Romance scams are on the rise, BBB says – NBC Chicago

Romance scams are on the rise, BBB says – NBC Chicago


Romance scams surged around Valentine’s Day, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), which has seen an increase in complaints over the past year.

“The Federal Trade Commission has reported losses of approximately $300 million over the past four years,” said Steve Berners, president and CEO of BBB, which serves Chicago and northern Illinois.

According to the BBB, only 10% of victims come forward, usually because of the stigma of losing money online.

However, one Rockford woman is sharing her story as a warning to others.

“A soldier wrote me a very good message [Facebook] Post that you look like a nice guy and I’m in Syria,” said Karen Hoffman, who described herself as a senior Army general.

“But then he started texting me and he was getting more and more demanding. He would ask for all kinds of information,” she said.

“All day, all night. He’s the general in Syria, I think, and he doesn’t do anything but text me?”

The news started in January. Hoffman said she wasn’t looking for love. Instead, coming from a military family herself, she sees herself as fulfilling her civic duty by being a friend to those serving overseas.

“I thought why not? I had pen pals in my Vietnamese days.”

He quickly asked for her phone number to move the conversation offline. According to the BBB, this is a big red flag.

“Protection isn’t really for you when you leave a website and start communicating via text or Skype or whatever,” Berners said.

The hardest-hit victims are usually over 55, Berners said. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, three in 10 American adults use dating sites or apps to find a romantic partner.

When Hoffman noticed too many red flags, she searched Facebook for the man’s name. She found more than 70 profiles with the same name and picture.

“That’s when I found out that he had cheated one woman of $20,000. Another woman had cheated of $50,000,” Hoffman said.

“I was pissed and when I saw this, I texted him back. I said, ‘I just found out you’re a scam and I want you to know.’ When he responded, his English was broken. Then He threatened to kill me,” she said.

She immediately reported her experience to the BBB.

Online reverse image searches can be a way to protect your heart and wallet. The BBB also recommends never sending money to strangers.

“Ask for money is a ‘extortion tip’. Never give money to someone you haven’t met in person. Be especially careful if they ask you to send money via wire transfer, money order or prepaid card as these payment methods cannot be traced and cannot be returned . Cut off contact immediately with anyone online asking for payment,” Berners said.

They also advise you to take your time. Red flags are those who want to get serious sooner rather than meet first. Take the time to get to know your opponent and make sure they are who they say they are.

Karen’s advice: If it’s someone outside your community, “He’s not looking for your romance. He’s looking for your money.”

The BBB urges anyone who believes they have been involved in a scam to report it on the BBB Online Scam Tracker.

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