After receiving more than 1,100 complaints regarding online dating services in 2019, the Better Business Bureau is advising consumers to exercise caution when using dating sites.
In a statement released just in time for Valentine’s Day, the BBB warns consumers to be aware of the limitations, costs and terms of service of dating sites.
“While some consumers have found happiness using a dating service, others have been disappointed in the quality of matches or the number of suitable people they were able to meet using the service,” said Blair Looney, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central California & Inland Empire Counties. “Meeting people online may sound easy and safe, but consumers need to keep their guard up to avoid being swindled, hurt or worse.”
The BBB said most of the complaints it received regarding dating sites in 2019 involved concerns over billing and collections. Other common complaints included issues over poor customer service, refunds and advertising.
The BBB also warned consumers to be cautious of potential fraud when meeting the people you match with online, as you don’t know if your match could be a thief.
Criminals sometimes pose as singles looking for matches on dating sites. They often lead their victims on until they can solicit money from them.
“Law enforcement and other agencies get thousands of complaints every year from people who have lost money through online dating or social media or email connections. Criminals posing as potential romantic ‘matches’ may lead victims on for a while, then suddenly claim they’ve got big medical bills or some other emergency need for money. Some criminals are overseas, making it difficult for authorities to pursue them or for victims to get their money back,” the BBB said in a statement.
“Fraudsters need a method to get funds from victims without being discovered. In many cases, money first passes to ‘money mules,’ who then transfer it to the fraudsters, often outside of the country,” the study said. Money mules often are unsuspecting romance fraud victims themselves who may end up in serious legal trouble for their activities.”
The study includes an outline of ways you can protect yourself from such fraudsters. Tips include:
- Don’t rush into an online relationship. Talk to family and friends about your dating choices.
- Analyze dating profiles. Look for repeated phrases and misspellings or misuse of words. Conduct an internet search of their name and profile picture.
- Recognize red flags for romance fraud, such as when the romantic interest requests that you: open a bank account or give access to an existing account; receive packages and reship them to another location; pick up funds at Western Union or MoneyGram and forward them somewhere else; and that you keep your relationship a secret.
The BBB urges consumers to make sure they understand what they are signing themselves up for when registering for an online dating site. Consumers should carefully review any contracts terms and conditions to understand how they will be charged.