Better Business Bureau: Online Dating Scams

August 15, 2012 4:22:34 AM PDT
Better Business Bureau President and CEO Steve Bernas offers advice on online dating to help you avoid getting scammed.

RELEASE:

Better Business Bureau Warns: Love Seekers Beware, Complaints rise 108 percent in the past year

When it comes to matters of the heart, consumers should beware that what may lie ahead could be heartache of a different sort.

The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois (BBB) advises people searching for love using dating services to read contracts to fully understand the scope and limitations of any agreement prior to signing and paying for services.

The BBB has received 549 inquiries on online dating services for this 12 month period compared to 316 for the previous 12 months, or an increase of 73%. In addition, the BBB has received 50 complaints for online dating services for this 12 month period compared to 24 for the previous 12 months, or an increase of 108 percent.

"With matchmaking contracts, it's important to know exactly what you're getting into and what the service offers," said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. "Be sure to read all agreements, guarantees, and instructions before signing and be wary of vaguely worded provisions, exclusions or limitations which could pose a problem later."

The BBB offers advice to avoid dating scams:

  • Know and recognize the red flags. Be wary if someone claims any of the following: to be in love right away, to be from the U.S. but traveling or working overseas, or to be a member of the military. Another red flag is if someone's profile lacks a photograph and/or information in their "About Me" section.

  • Create a new e-mail account to be used just for online dating. The advantage of having a separate account is that you can filter information in your dating inbox and it doesn't become mixed with work or personal e-mails.

  • Don't give out personal information online. It is not necessary to reveal any of the following on your online dating profile: full name, address, phone numbers, link to your Facebook page, work information or financial details. This information can be revealed later if you meet in person and develop trust. Avoid anyone who pushes you to disclose personal information.

  • Talk on the phone before meeting in a public place. It can be easier to spot a fraud over the phone rather than online. If you decide to meet someone after the initial phone conversation, always meet in a public.

    Tips for choosing an online dating company:

  • Don't fall in love with the advertising. Beware of claims such as; an exclusive network of people, for sincere daters only, and beautiful singles just like you. Recently, BBB's National Advertising Division www.bbb.org/us/national-advertising-division provided a decision in a case between rival online services, requiring one to stop advertising that its methods were based on "the latest science of attraction."

  • Know how to break up. Consumers should not assume that they will stop being billed once the contract runs out. Many online dating sites automatically renew memberships and there are steps that must be taken, such as calling the company, to keep from being billed again.

  • Do your homework. Checkout the company with BBB at www.bbb.org to review its history of satisfying customers and resolving complaints.

    Note that a consumer has three business days to cancel their contract and receive a complete refund under the Dating Services Referral Act (815 ILCS 615/20) (from Ch. 29, par. 1051-20) Sec. 20. Cancellation and refund requirements.

    For more trustworthy information on matchmaking and online dating services, consumers can access BBB Business Reviews free-of-charge at www.bbb.org

    As a private, non-profit organization, the purpose of the Better Business Bureau is to promote an ethical marketplace. BBBs help resolve buyer/seller complaints by means of conciliation, mediation and arbitration. BBBs also review advertising claims, online business practices and charitable organizations. BBBs develop and issue reports on businesses and nonprofit organizations and encourage people to check out a company or charity before making a purchase or donation.


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