CHICAGO (WLS) -- January is a big month for dating websites, which usually see a spike in members hoping to find love in the New Year.
The first Sunday in January is known as "Dating Sunday," the world's busiest day for online dating. But, unfortunately, it's also a big day for romance scammers. Con-artists will reach out to singles via apps, sites or even text messages, strike up a conversation with them, then encourage them to invest in cryptocurrency through fake sites and accounts. But, once they get their money, they disappear.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, scammers bilked more than $135 million from victims in 2021 alone. The best way to avoid becoming a target is using trusted sites and matchmaking companies. Do your research before you sign up or give anyone your information, said Vanessa Sescila, a matchmaker at It's Just Lunch Chicago.
"If you meet somebody online, I think it's important that you get their first and last name," Sescila said. "Do a Google search before you go meet them."
If you have your date's real and full name, you can find out a lot about them online. Are they married? Do they have kids? Are they really who they say they are? You can also do a reverse image Google search to see if their photo is fake or real.
If and when you do meet a potential date, always meet in a public place. Don't go to someone's home until you really know them.
And, lastly, never send money to someone you haven't met in person or don't truly know. It's a big red flag if someone is asking you for money or to invest in something after just meeting you on a dating site.