EUGENE, Ore. -- Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific is reminding social media users to watch out for the red flags of online romance scams following the launch of Facebook Dating.
Facebook released its dating platform last week. Its goal is to match users based on preferences picked when creating the profile, along with pre-established interests and Facebook activity.
As dating apps continue to become more popular and personal, it is critical that users learn the signs of catfishing when talking to a stranger, the Better Business Bureau said. Research has found that more than 85% of catfishing scams start on Facebook.
Last year, Oregon victims lost an average $10,200 to romance scams, according to the FBI and reports filed on BBB Scam Tracker. Oregon was also listed in the top 10 states where users are most likely to be catfished. In fact, the Northwest is a hot zone for romance scams as Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Wyoming are all in the top 10, the BBB said.
This is how the scam works: You meet someone online and start talking, and things move in a romantic direction. As the time to finally meet approaches, the person on the other end has some sort of “emergency” preventing them from being able to see you unless you send money to help. BBB finds that in many cases, victims of this type of scam send money.
Romance scams are a growing nationwide problem -- reports filed with the FTC more than doubled from 2017 to 2018. In total, $143 million was lost last year.
Here are BBB’s tips on how to spot a scam:
- Catfishers try to move off the dating site you started on -- Facebook or not -- very quickly. The goal is to get the victim emailing or texting as soon as possible.
- Scammers start to talk about a future together extremely fast, often saying things like “I knew I loved you right away” or making plans to get married, have children, etc.
- Catfishers build up the relationship quickly by sharing intimate, even sad, stories to gain trust and sympathy before they come up on hard times. If this person has not been willing to meet and then, when it’s finally supposed to happen, something tragic happens, do not send money. This is a common tactic used to bait victims.