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As millions of Americans prepare to celebrate the most romantic day of the year,
MoneyGram (NASDAQ: MGI), a leading global money transfer and payment services company is warning consumers to watch out for scam artists who claim to be “looking for love.”
The scammers scout dating sites, chat rooms, blogs and social media networks to lure their victims into forming a relationship. They usually claim to be Americans traveling or working abroad. In reality, they often live overseas. Their most common targets are women over 40, who are divorced, widowed, and/or disabled, but every age group and demographic is at risk.
“The scams typically begin online, with the scammer quickly professing love for the victim,” says Kim Garner, senior vice president of global security at MoneyGram. “After winning the victim’s trust, the scammer will ask the victim to send money through a wire transfer – claiming the need for some type of emergency, custom or duty fees, or even for travel costs to finally meet the unsuspecting victim. Once the victim wires the money, they never hear from the scammer again.”
According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, (IC3) a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center, consumers lost $55 million to romance scams in 2012.
The IC3 reports that some criminals take the scam a step further by baiting a victim into intimate conversations or sending provocative pictures, and then threaten to expose them if they don't pay up.
Online conversations filled with spelling and grammatical errors
Profile photo does not match alleged age or ethnicity of individual
Person refuses to provide contact information or claims not to own a phone
“Relationship” moves really fast
The topic of money comes up quickly
“Pay attention to the warning signs, and push back if you suspect a scam,” says Garner. “Listen to your instincts, and never send money to someone you don’t know or who you have never met in person.”