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MoneyGram (NYSE: MGI), a leading global money transfer company, is advising romantics to practice tough love this Valentine’s Day, as a way to stop scammers in their attempts to steal their money through romance scams.
Kim Garner, senior vice president of global security and investigations for MoneyGram, explained that romance scams typically begin in an online environment, with the scammer quickly professing love for the victim. After winning the victim’s trust, the scammer will ask the victim to send money through a wire transfer – claiming the need for a medical operation, some type of emergency, or even for travel costs to finally meet the unsuspecting victim. Once the victim wires the money, they never hear from the scammer again, and there’s no way to get the money back. Or the requests for money may escalate after the victim sends an initial amount.
According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center, consumers lost $50 million to romance scams in 2011, with the average victim losing nearly $9,000.
Garner said consumers should pay attention to these warning signs on the road to romance:
Wrong Way: Romance scammers typically are located overseas, and don’t have a command of the language local to the victim. When the online conversation is filled with spelling and grammatical errors, the victim should question who’s on the other end.
Slippery: Another early clue is when the scammer seems slippery about obvious inconsistencies, such as the profile photo not matching the alleged age or ethnicity of the individual on the other end of the online conversation.
One Way: Scammers like to control the situation, and typically will initiate any contact beyond the online dating site. When a scammer won’t provide his or her contact information or claims he or she doesn’t have a phone, that should raise a red flag.
Reduced Speed Ahead: Scammers like to move fast, and will profess their love quickly. If the “relationship” seems like it’s moving too fast, then the scammer’s attempted pay-off is probably around the next corner.
Hazardous Material: The end goal for a scammer is to steal money from the victim, so as soon as the topic of money comes up, end the “relationship.”
Garner said that even after a victim calls out the scam, there may be a “scam after the scam,” when the scammer admits to the scam but then professes that he really did fall in love. The scam then begins again, in an attempt to extract money from the victim. “Don’t fall for a scam in the hopes of falling in love,” Garner said. “Pay attention to the warning signs, and push back if you suspect a scam. Listen to your instincts, and don’t be intimidated or shy. And if the topic of money comes up, end the conversation immediately.”