The Better Business Bureau and APD warns the community of online romance fraud


    The Better Business Bureau and he Amarillo Police Department are warning the community about online romance fraud. (ABC 7 Amarillo Darra Cunningham)

    Valentine’s Day can bring a lot of activity to dating sites and social media for those looking for love but some people have their hearts set on something else, and that’s money.

    The Better Bureau Business reports 20 to 30 percent of online romance fraud victims were used as money mules online.

    We live in a world where some are so desperate for love, they’ll send money to someone they have never met face-to-face. Amarillo Better Business Bureau President & CEO Janna Kiehl tells ABC 7 it happens more often than you might think.

    "A lot of victims of online scams don't realize what they are getting in to because they think if it’s online it must be real or true or even legal,” said Kiehl. "When they find out it’s not real that's one thing, that's bad enough but on top of that many times victims are getting involved as money mules and they are used in these scams to perpetrate all types of fraud.”

    There are many cases in Texas where people have been conned out of as much as $20,000. Amarillo Police Department Jeb Hilton said there have been cases here in Amarillo.

    "They've talked or dated online for a while and then they've lost money to either buying a plane ticket for this person to come and meet them or just sending them money for rent or whatever it is and then next thing you know that account is closed and they're out that money," said Cpl. Hilton.

    Kiehl said online romance fraud often leaves people needing counseling to help them overcome the trauma of the fraud. Kiehl recommends for people to use their head and not their hearts.

    "Go very, very slow and use very reputable websites because when you're used in a money laundering scam or some other fraud against, you've lost the love but you could be a victim of much more than that if there's criminal activity involved," said Kiehl.

    What to do if you are the victim of a romance scam:

    • Complain to bbb.org
    • Report the fraud to bbb.org/scamtracker
    • Report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or call 877-FTC-Help
    • Report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, or IC3
    • Report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. Toll free from the US at 1-888-495-8501.
    • Report it to the Senate Aging Committee Fraud Hotline at 1-855-303-9470 or through its website.
    • Victims who have sent money through Western Union should complain directly to them at 1-800-448-1492.
    • Victims who have sent money through MoneyGram should notify them directly at 1-800-926-9400.

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