In observance of National Consumer Protection Week, which is March 5-11, the Postal Inspection Service is taking aim at those who steal more than hearts: romance scammers.
With loneliness epidemic in the United States, these predators have an enormous pool of potential victims to prey on. Older people are particularly susceptible to their empty promises.
How do they scam thee? The Postal Inspection Service website counts the ways:
• They pledge their love way too quickly.
• They ask you to send or receive money or packages.
• They need money right away because of a medical or family emergency.
• They need a visa or plane tickets.
• They claim a business opportunity arose that was too good to turn down, and they ask you to wire a loan.
A few signs your online Romeo or Juliet may be a thieving Lothario include a mismatch between their name and the name embedded in their email address; obvious spelling and grammar errors in their messages; and an online profile that suddenly disappears from the dating site.
Inspectors advise those looking for love online to protect themselves by following these tips:
• Keep personal details to yourself.
• Do a quick Google search of the other person’s name and the town they claim to live in.
• Proceed slowly and look for inconsistencies in their profile and the information they share.
• Keep an eye out for signs the relationship is moving in a direction that it wouldn’t otherwise go if meeting in real life.
• Gently apply the brakes if your new friend pushes to take the conversation to private email. Stay on the website’s platform until it’s time to meet in person.
If you are a victim of a scam or suspect fraud, submit an online report to the Inspection Service or call 877-876-2455.
It may not sound terribly romantic, but hope — and love — spring eternal.
As Postal Inspector Andrea Avery puts it: “Don’t give up on love. Just give up on scammers.”