Business Columns & Blogs

Looking for love in all the wrong places: Beware romance scams

Modesto Bee

If you’ve seen the classic movie Grease, you may know the tune “Summer lovin’, had me a blast. Summer lovin’, happened so fast.” The love story of Danny and Sandy may have had its dramatic ups and downs, but in the end (spoiler alert!) they ended up living happily ever after.

That wasn’t quite the case when one local woman thought she had met an eligible bachelor on a popular online dating app. As reported to BBB, the woman started chatting with someone in Ohio, claiming to be a commander in the Army. After weeks of conversations, the man said he needed $1,500 to access his retirement. He asked the Boise woman to wire him the money in his time of need. Unfortunately, she sent part of it.

When she started to recognize red flags, she questioned the man of his intentions and identity. Soon after, she started getting texts from someone claiming to represent the Ohio Police Department stating they have verified the identity of the man she was talking to and confirmed he “is a good person and that it is OK to resume dating him.” That’s when she knew it was a ruse.

While she eventually cut off communication with the man she thought she was dating, she was out $500. Not to mention the emotions and time she invested in this person.

It’s a classic tale, not of a love story, but of a romance scam. Here’s how it often works:

Most romance scams start with fake profiles on online dating sites created by stealing photos and text from real accounts or elsewhere. Scammers often claim to be in the military or working overseas to explain why they can’t meet you in person. Over a short period of time, the scammer builds a fake relationship with you, exchanging photos and romantic messages, even talking on the phone or through a webcam.

Just when the relationship seems to be getting serious, your new sweetheart has a health issue or family emergency, or wants to plan a visit. No matter the story, the request is the same: they need money. But after you send money, there’s another request, and then another. Or the scammer stops communicating altogether.

BBB offers these tips to help spot the scam:

▪  Be wary of someone who always has an excuse to postpone a meeting. Someone really interested in a relationship will want to see you in person. Be wary of someone who is constantly “traveling” or happens to be overseas.

▪  Be careful what you share, and don’t share money. Even if you are tempted to help an online friend, never send money or reveal personally identifiable information to someone you have not met in person or have not verified as reliable.

▪  Take note if your romantic interest has a photo that doesn’t match his/her profile. Lots of people fib in their dating profile, adding an inch of height or subtracting 10 pounds. But be on the lookout for big discrepancies. For example, a scammer may describe their fake persona as blonde but uses a photo of a brunette. Or they may forget certain details they previously shared.

Don’t let your summer dreams get ripped at the seams — safeguard your heart, and your wallet, by being cautious.

Emily Valla,, is the Idaho marketplace director for the Better Business Bureau Northwest. To check a business or report a scam, go to or call (208) 342-4649.