How to protect yourself from fraud when looking for love online

These days, finding your soulmate online is just as likely as meeting “the one” through more traditional means. Online dating is now a widely accepted way for people to seek relationships.

As is the case with many things in life, the good comes along with the bad. While many people are finding love, a few are also encountering individuals who are visiting online dating sites for the wrong reasons – reasons that have nothing to do with meeting someone. As the popularity of online dating has exploded, criminals are using online dating sites and chat rooms to scam unsuspecting individuals with high hopes for a lasting relationship.

However, that’s no reason to let fraudsters turn you away from online dating. As a money transfer provider focused on helping to protect consumers, Western Union offers the following tips to help avoid becoming the victim of a relationship scam:

* Never, under any circumstance, send money to someone you have not met in person, no matter how much you might think you trust them. When you are in the process of developing a relationship with somebody online, you should become immediately suspicious if they ask for money, however good their reasons might sound. Some common reasons fraudsters may use when requesting money include needing the money for medical reasons or to make travel arrangements for the person they met online to visit them.

* Anyone who asks you to leave the dating website immediately to continue your conversation through email or IM should raise your suspicion, says the Federal Trade Commission in their guide to avoiding online dating scams. This can allow fraudsters to carry out their scam without the dating site having record of your encounter.

* Be wary of someone who claims to be from the United States, but is currently overseas. Fraudsters will often make use of offshore accounts, making it more difficult for authorities to track them down and catch them.

* Fraudsters can trick their victims in a variety of ways. Sometimes they will express instant feelings of love and other times they will slowly lead their victims along. No matter how much your relationship might seem like the real thing, it can’t be emphasized enough that you should be suspicious if someone starts asking for information like credit card or Social Security numbers. While you should never give money to someone you don’t know or trust, you should especially avoid giving them cash or sending wire transfers.

Meeting someone new can be one of the great joys in life. Don’t let the enjoyment of dating and relationships be ruined by someone who’s only looking to profit from your generosity. If you think you’ve been a victim of a relationship scam, you can file a complaint at www.ftc.gov. If you think that you’ve been a victim of fraud and sent a Western Union Money Transfer, call 1-800-448-1492 or visit www.westernunion/stopfraud.

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