Whether you live in a retirement community or independently, no one wants to be alone on Valentine's Day. However, many con artists and scammers exploit our human desire to connect and use it to their advantage around this romantic holiday. These cunning crooks are pros at scamming people into trusting them, and have been known to swindle seniors out of thousands of dollars, according to AARP. To ensure you or a loved one doesn't end up with a broken heart this February, keep an eye out for these five Valentine's Day scams:
1. Googling gifts
According to MarketWatch, shopping for Valentine's Day gifts on search engines can be a dangerous practice. Scammers often create fake websites that may pop up when you're searching for candy, flowers or other trademark gifts of the holiday, and then collect credit card information when patrons try to make a purchase. The source advises avoiding this trick by only shopping at reputable retailers with secure websites. Another option is to skip the online shopping all together and make your holiday purchases from a local brick-and-mortar store.
"Romantic scams lose the victim an average of $26,000."
2. Romance scams
While the stigma attached to Internet dating has long since disappeared, there are still thousands of people on these romantic networking websites pretending to be people they're not. AARP notes that romantic scams mostly happen to men and women over age 40 and lose the victim an average of $26,000. To trick those looking for love, con artists create fake profiles and spend a significant amount of time wooing their victims. Once a person has bought their charade, they ask for money for an emergency or to meet in person, at which point they will ask for a wire transfer. This method of payment is both untraceable and can be collected anywhere in the world. Sadly, if a person's dating profile seems to good to be true, there's a good chance it's not.
3. Delivery scams
Although this scam is less common, be wary of any courier that asks for credit card information upon delivery. In general, these scammers may make up a story about an extra charge for transporting alcohol or give another bogus reason. Once they're gone, they'll use the credit card information fraudulently, and you'll be left trying to sort out the charges with your bank.
4. E-card clickbait
Holidays are a perfect opportunity for companies to inundate your inbox with advertisements for sales and other promotions. However, if you get emails for E-cards, Valentine's Day sales or other seasonal specials from companies with which you've never shopped, be wary of clicking them or making purchases. MarketWatch advises being particularly prudent about investigating Web addresses before entering them, as many scammers will use URLs that give them away. This small hint can be important because other than the domain name or address, many con artists will put in the work to make their emails look legitimate.
5. Facebook ploys
Valentine's Day scams don't stop on dating websites or via email. Social media platforms allow crooks to reach a large body of potential victims at one time and also provide a certain level of inconspicuousness. According to ReadWrite, scammers may promote fraudulent love giveaways on Facebook and other forums. Since social media hubs link to lots of other websites around the Internet, it may be challenging to separate what's real from fake in the moment. In general, steer clear of any quizzes that require personal information, and also don't respond to any shady download prompts that scammers may use to place malware on your computer.