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Thursday, February 11 2016

Valentine Tips from the BBB

Adapted from Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Central New England, Inc. press releases:

Think the Better Business Bureau doesn't have anything to do with a holiday about romance?  Think again!  Unfortunately, in today's society, scammers show up everywhere---even in places where you are trying to find love or pick out a gift for your sweetie.  Thankfully, the BBB has some helpful hints to keep you safe as you navigate the online dating waters or attempt to purchase the perfect Valentine's Day present.

Don't Get Catphished When Looking for Love Online

An online relationship scam usually starts simply. Two people meet online, usually through a dating site. They email, trade pictures, talk on the phone, and soon they're making plans to meet but, as the relationship gets stronger, things start to change and may not add up.

Dating sites offer convenience and anonymity, which is just what scammers need.  You may feel you get to know someone through photos, email, or chatting, but it's easy for a person at the other end of a keyboard to conceal the truth.  Many people find true love via online dating sites but there are red flags to watch for that may indicate you're dealing with a scammer. "Often times after a connection is established, scammers will change gears and start making requests for money or other emergency needs and play on the emotions of a victim," said Nancy B. Cahalen, President and CEO of the BBB of Central New England. "Victims may feel compelled to comply, not realizing that they are not communicating with who they thought. Once emotions are involved, victims find it hard to separate themselves from the situation, which is exactly what the scammer wants."

The following are some warning signs of "catfishing" or romance scams.  Be wary of anyone who:

*Quickly asks to talk or chat on an outside email or messaging service:  Often times, this allows fraudsters to carry out scams without the dating site having a record of the encounter. Remember that scammers play on emotion and anytime people are vulnerable, fraudsters will find opportunity.

*Claims to be from this country but currently traveling, living, or working abroad:  Scammers come up with all kinds of excuses why they can't meet in person just yet.  Also be cautious of online daters who claim to be called away suddenly or to be in the military and stationed overseas.

*Asks you for money or credit card information:  In some cases, the scammer will claim an emergency, like a sick relative or stolen wallet, and ask you to wire money.  In others, they may ask for airfare to come and visit with you. The first wire transfer is usually small but the requests will keep coming and growing.  Payback promises are empty; the money's gone and so is your match.

*Sends you emails containing questionable links to third-party websites:  Third-party links can contain malware that's designed to steal personal information off your computer.  Scammers may use third-party links that look credible but in reality they only link to viruses that can lead to identity theft.

Valentine's Day Gift Shopping Tips

Valentine's Day is right around the corner and love is in the air.  If you're looking for the perfect gift for your loved one, BBBureau of Central New England encourages you to shop smart and make the most of your money when trying to impress your loved one.

"Online shopping makes it easy to browse for gifts and comparison shop," said Nancy B. Cahalen, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central New England. "Online advertising makes it even easier, with ad targeting, but be sure you are familiar with the retailer before making a purchase." It's easy to click and pay when you come across a good deal, but you want to be sure the gift will be delivered on time and as expected.

BBB Tips for a Valentine's Day Full of Love & Happiness:

*Purchasing flowers:  Flowers are one of the most popular Valentine's Day gifts, so be sure to place your order in advance.  Be familiar with the florist you choose and be sure to verify delivery details.  Make sure to get a receipt for your purchase and be familiar with the refund policy if the order is late, not delivered, or in bad condition.

*Purchasing jewelry:  Do your research before you go to a jewelry store.  Have an idea of what you are looking for and what your budget is, comparison shop, make notes, and of course be familiar with the store's refund policy.

*Purchasing gift cards:  Before purchasing a gift card, check to make sure it hasn't been tampered with.  If possible, purchase cards that need to be loaded and activated by a store clerk.  Damaged or tampered with cards could be useless, as someone may have fraudulently taken the PIN numbers to unload funds from the card, so it's always best to report damaged cards to a store employee.

In addition, BBB encourages all consumers to research any company they plan to do business with on first.  BBB Business Reviews contain a variety of information on a company including complaint history, customer reviews, licensing requirements, management information, and more.


For more consumer tips and information visit or call 1-866-566-9222 and, for the latest, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

About Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Central New England
The mission of BBB is to promote and foster the highest ethical relationship between businesses and consumers, through voluntary self-regulation, business and consumer education, and service excellence. For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been connecting consumers to trusted businesses, brands, and charities they can trust. People turn to BBB more than 165 million times last year for BBB Business Reviews on over 4.7 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at BBB of Central New England, Inc. was founded in 1940 and serves 225 communities in Worcester, Hampshire, Hampden, Franklin, and Berkshire counties, as well as parts of Middlesex County, and 7 towns in Connecticut. BBB of Central New England is one of 113 local, independent, BBBs in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.