Consumer Watch: How to avoid a 'catfish scam'


by WHAS11

Posted on January 23, 2013 at 6:22 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 23 at 6:41 PM

(WHAS11) -- The controversy surrounding a Notre Dame football star and a girlfriend who never existed has put online dating scams back in the spotlight.

In recent days you may have heard the term "catfishing," or a "catfish scam." These scams are not a new phenomenon, but social media has made them a little more common. These scams a lot like the classic "phishing" scams that swipe a consumer's information.

The Better Business Bureau says these scams are also known as "sweetheart scams," and in 2011 such online dating hoaxes were among their top ten scams of the year. In the past, the Federal Trade Commission has advised consumers of some of the warning signs of an online dating hoax.

The warning signs include:

-- Wanting to leave a dating site immediately to switch over to personal email or instant messaging accounts
-- Proclaiming instant feelings of love
-- Claiming to be from the United States, but currently overseas
-- Planned visits or face-to-face encounters that keep getting upended by tragic or unexpected events.

The Better Business Bureau also advises consumers to never wire money to those online sweethearts who ask for help with things like travel, sudden medical emergencies, hospital bills, or to cover an unexpected financial loss. 

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