Advice to help you avoid Valentine's Day scams

Published: Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 01:35 PM.
  • Make sure the physical location, contact information and fees for the florist who's actually fulfilling your order are fully disclosed.
  • Pay by credit card so if there's a problem you can dispute it with your card issuer.
  • If you receive an email saying there's a problem with your order, call the florist to make sure it's legitimate; don't click on any links – they could be malware.

Beware of emails and social media ads touting great deals on other Valentine's themed gifts like chocolates, jewelry or lingerie. Unless you've previously done business with a company that legitimately has your email address, be skeptical. Watch out for minor typos in the web address – www.macys.comm instead of www.macys.com, for example.

It's no coincidence that dating websites are busier during the winter holidays and leading up to Valentine's Day. Lonely people's defenses are lowered, making them vulnerable to online romance scams. Before they know it, victims are conned into sharing personal or financial information, or lending money – money they'll never see again.

I'm not saying don't pursue love online at legitimate dating sites. Just watch out for these warning signs:

  • They want to move your conversations off the dating site immediately and use personal email or instant messaging – the better to avoid policing by the site's Webmaster.
  • Their online profile sounds too good to be true. That's because they've probably shaped it to reflect your stated preferences. Or, conversely, their profile may be suspiciously sketchy on details or their photos don't seem genuine.
  • They profess love very quickly, even before you've spoken or met.
  • They claim to be a U.S. citizen working overseas – often in the military.
  • They make plans to visit, but are suddenly prevented by a traumatic family or business event – one which your money can overcome.

Bottom line: Don't let your emotions get the better of your common sense when it comes to matters of the heart. For more tips on spotting and reporting online scams, visit the Federal Trade Commission's website (www.ftc.gov).




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