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If personal security matters more to you than a broken heart on Valentine’s Day, take heed as thieves and con artists will prey on people who will seek company on February 14 by stealing their money and identities.
Thieves will try to exploit an unsuspecting person whenever a door of opportunity opens up, including their hunt for lonely hearts, says global analytics firm Experian.
Advocates against online identity theft and the FBI are advising those who use dating websites to be vigilant for cybercriminals dubbed as sweetheart scammers, who defraud money or bank account details from people looking for dates online.
Most sweetheart scammers start by creating a fake profile that fits a particular type of personality: wealthy, on the job, and full of trust.
The bogus profile will look complete in all aspects – even as far as having similar likes and dislikes as the prey.
If the fair game falls for the trap and builds trust, most swindlers will step up by mentioning a problem that involves money.
The usual scenario follows a criminal who will escalate the request for funds to travel and meet with the target or to help a sick relative of the crook.
Protect Your Identity
Ken Chaplin, senior vice president of ProtectMyID at Experian, says individuals who try to build relationships through online dating and social networks are the main marks for online identity thieves who target the weaknesses of people on those channels.
Take time to protect personal information and watch out for warning signs that will make or break your online identity, adds Chaplin.
ProtectMyID authorized a survey that found most people who engage in online dating failed to study in minute detail their potential matches before communicating with them.
Many people, not only online daters, intensify this problem by revealing more than the necessary personal information – birthday, address, phone number, and even bank account details – at a premature stage.
ProtectMyID reminds online daters to take preventive measures and distinguish a scam before the hunt for romance becomes a financial or identity fraud.
1. Online dating profiles must not expose everything
Never reveal data – address, education, hometown, job specifics, phone numbers, and so on – that will allow a potential dating match to identify you in person until a deeper level of trust and intimacy is established.
2. Avoid posting personally identifiable information.
Keep away from posting personal information on an online dating profile, including details about children though profiles and photo ID.
3. Not all romantic prospects are honest.
Not all potential dating matches are truthful, so ask his or her for more information, and conduct a background check to verify that the online profiles contain have no conflicting information.
4. An online dating profile should not use a password with publicly known information.
Although February 14 is the right day to be very cautious for potential sweetheart scams, online financial and identity fraud happen at any time of the year.
The Identity Theft Resource Center confirms it takes year-round calls from online daters swindled by sweetheart scammers.
Eva Casey Velasquez, president of the Identity Theft Resource Center, says Valentine’s Day is not always about the flowers and chocolates we give or receive.
Sweetheart scammers operate throughout the year, but they are rampant during the season of romance so make financial decisions with the head and not the heart, adds Velasquez.
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