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By Andrea Toch

Reprinted with permission from http://blog.protectmyid.com/2014/01/22/sweetheart-scammers-what-you-need-to-know/?

February 6, 2015 (San Diego’s East County)-- Identity theft advocacy organizations and the FBI warn those who use online dating sites to watch out for “sweetheart scammers” who swindle money or bank account information from online daters.

A “sweetheart scammer” usually begins with a fake profile designed to match a certain type of person: employed, affluent and trusting. The profile is designed to seem perfect in every way, even down to the same likes and dislikes as the target. Once the target reciprocates and trust has been established, the scam usually escalates to the thief’s unveiling of a problem involving money. Typical scenarios include the request for funds to be able to travel to meet the target or to help the thief’s sick relative.

Results from a past survey commissioned by ProtectMyID determined that a high percentage of individuals participating in online dating fail to properly scrutinize potential matches prior to engaging in communication. Furthermore, many compound this issue by divulging too much personal information at a very early stage. From birth dates and addresses to phone numbers and even bank account details, the flow of information is alarmingly high in the online dating world.

ProtectMyID reminds people that they can take precautionary steps and spot a scam before romance fades into financial and identity fraud:

• Keep the details close to the heart. Avoid posting personally identifiable information on your online dating profiles, including but not limited to hometown, home addresses, work specifics, phone numbers, educational background and information about children via profiles and through photo identification.

• Cupid isn’t always right. Don’t assume that a prospective dating match always will be truthful. Ask a person to tell you about himself or herself; you then can conduct a little background work on websites and see if conflicting information exists. Also, be wary of any requests for financial loans or assistance of any kind.

• Create the perfect password. For online dating profiles, do not use passwords that incorporate publicly known information.

Even though Valentine’s season, it’s important to realize this is a year-round issue and remember to always make financial decisions with your head and not your heart.