How to avoid a broken heart and break the bank

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) – No one wants to go through heartbreak, especially one that also breaks the bank.

As Valentine’s Day weekend approaches, police and the Better Business Bureau are warning people about an increasingly common type of fraud: one involving a romantic relationship.

The Federal Trade Commission has just released new data on this subject. In 2020, people defrauded $304 million in romance scams. That was a 50% increase from 2019. The key to not being a victim: catching the red flags.

Some may be someone who professes their love quickly or pretends to need money in an emergency.

“You know you can search social media profiles, so if any red flags come up for you,” said Rosalind White, public information officer for Huntsville Police.

After meeting someone on a dating app or through social media, White advises you to do your research on the person to make sure nothing contradicts what they’re telling you.

And rule number one: never send money to someone you don’t know.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, requests for gift cards and wire transfers are the most common way for victims to hand over money, dollars they are unlikely to get back.

Huntsville attorney Will League said: “Without a contract, you would have no legal right to get your money back.”

The League says a contract could be a written promise, like a text from the scammer saying he’ll pay you back. However, there are different rules for different states.

And that’s only if you can track down the scammer.

“There are lots of ways to hide your identity, so it’s hard to trace the person doing the scam. So you pretty much lose that money most of the time when you send it,” White said.

A BBB spokesperson says that if you have fallen victim to this scam, contact your bank immediately and file a complaint with them.

A few more safety tips, if you’re meeting someone for the first time online, always meet in public and tell a friend where you’re going.

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