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Every year on February 14th, Valentine’s Day encourages trading gifts, purchasing roses, and special romantic evenings with your partner. It could be the day your sweetheart looks forward to the most in February.

Though it may be the most romantic day of the year, you are still prone to scams and online safety threats. A day like Valentine’s Day may encourage scammers to use popular consumer services, such as dating sites or chatrooms in an attempt to steal money or sensitive data.

These ‘romance scams’ have gained significant traction over the years, with over 21,000 scams reported in 2018 alone. The median loss for that year was upwards of $2,600 to romance scammers, which is “about seven times higher than other frauds” according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Alongside giving money to swindlers hiding behind fake profiles or aliases, consumers also reported a loss of sensitive PIN numbers and gift cards. Con artists prefer these payment methods because they can get quick cash and these transactions are rarely reversible.

Your online safety from such malicious activity is paramount. When looking for love or friendship online, we recommend following these tips:

  • Do not send gifts or money to a stranger you haven’t met in person.
  • Pay close attention to your match’s profile. If anything looks suspicious or out of place then you may be speaking to an imposter using images of different people.
  • Talk to someone you trust about a person you meet online and listen to their advice. Your trusted friend may spot red flags that you did not notice.
  • Protect sensitive information from your online friend. Sensitive information includes, but is not limited to credit card numbers, bank account numbers, social security numbers, and addresses.

Visit the FTC’s site to learn more about imposters. If you encounter these scams, please make sure you report it on the FTC’s complaint page. Your tips and complaints on suspicious online profiles can help stop other consumers from encountering such malicious scams.

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s vehicular and customized wheelchair Lemon Laws and Arbitration Programs, Data Breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Programs, and the MA Do Not Call Registry.

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