EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. If you’re looking to find that special someone on a dating app or website, experts say you should also be keeping an eye out for scammers.
28/22 News Reporter Amelia Sack spoke with local law enforcement about how to protect yourself from romance scams this season.
Online dating sites and apps are popular spots for those searching for a soulmate, But they can also be hotspots for scammers.
“Romance scams are specifically targetting people who are using dating apps, and dating websites,” said Pennsylvania State Police Troop N Public Information Officer Trooper Anthony Petroski.
Looking for love online ahead of Valentine’s Day? Look a little closer. Otherwise, a romance scammer could plague your pockets.
“What they do is they use the grooming process so they talk to people, develop a good rapport that might go on for a few days maybe even for a few weeks, and it’s all good conversation,” Trooper Petroski explained.
The conversation happens entirely online, without the two people ever meeting in person.
“All of a sudden a couple days goes by and there’s no conversation. Then they say I’m sorry I lost my job, or I’m down on my luck, I’m losing my apartment my house,” Trooper Petroski continued.
The scammer will then ask for money or gift cards. The victim, feeling bad for the person they think they’ve formed a connection with, falls into the fraudster’s trap.
“And they start sending them money, they send them gift cards,” Trooper Petroski added.
Finally, the scammer deletes their profile, leaving the victim’s heart and wallet empty.
“And they move on to the next victim,” said Trooper Petroski.
While many people turn to online dating around Valentine’s Day, experts say romance scams can happen any time of the year.
“A lot of senior citizens are using these dating apps to connect with people, just to have conversations,” Trooper Petroski stated.
While anyone who uses a dating app or website can fall victim to a romance scam, Trooper Petroski says senior citizens are often targets.
Overall, he says it’s important to be mindful when you’re speaking with someone online.
“When you’re using these online dating apps you have to be careful. You have to realize that the threat is there. Who you think you’re speaking to, might not really be. If they start asking a lot of questions if they start asking for money, asking for gift cards, ‘Hey I’ll pay you back,’ stay away from it because the threat is there,” Trooper Petroski explained.
PSP says that if you or a loved one has fallen victim to a romance scam, you should contact law enforcement and your financial institution.