BBB: Look out for Valentine's Day scams - Odessa American: Bbb Column

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BBB: Look out for Valentine's Day scams

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Posted: Monday, February 13, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:41 am, Wed Aug 29, 2012.

PERMIAN BASIN Market Research released a report last month stating that dating services are a $2.1 billion industry, with online dating representing 53 percent of the market. With an estimated 1,500 online dating sites, according to Market Research, Better Business Bureau advises those consumers looking for love to be cautious and thoroughly research sites before committing their heart and money.

Online dating is an effortless way of interacting with people without having to go out and meet people the traditional way. However, with that come the dangers of not knowing exactly who you are talking with on the other end.

A common scam associated with online dating involves someone who claims to live in another city or even another country. He or she uses the Internet to build a relationship and foster trust, and will then ask for money so they can come and visit, or he or she will manufacture a crisis that requires quick cash.

There are multiple red flags to watch for when dating online, such as:

Insistence on communicating outside of the dating site. Some dating sites monitor exchanges for signs of fraud, so a fraudster may try to lure you away from the site.

They claim to have a sudden emergency. Scam artists will claim that there has been an emergency and they need your assistance. They ask you to wire money to them because they are unable to access their account.

Discrepancies in what they tell you. Save emails or chat logs, and pay attention to the details.

Refusal to meet in-person. Scammers will often use distance or other excuses to avoid an in-person meeting.

Anyone contacting you from overseas should be avoided.

Even though Internet dating is becoming more popular, it is still a relatively new way of meeting people. Consumers need to understand the dangers associated with online dating so they can make their search a safe one, and also be wary of the online dating sites they choose.

For those looking to start their search for love, BBB offers the following tips for finding a trustworthy online dating site:

Research in advance. Review the company history and its reputation with customers on www.bbb.org. Also, look for a "Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)" section of the website or marketing brochure to be sure you feel comfortable with all of the program components.

Put safety first. Remember, that all personal information provided will be made available for all those on the site to see. Avoid putting too much personal information on your profile, such as home address, work information, telephone number, etc.

Read the contract and fine print thoroughly. Specifically look for free trial offers and deals that require you to cancel to avoid additional charges. Be sure the contract lists out payment plans, length of contract and refund and cancellation policies in case you are dissatisfied with the company's services.

To check the reliability of a company and find trustworthy businesses, visit bbb.org.

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