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Christmas season is also catfishing season. Don't fall for a romance scam

Jon Healey, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Dating Advice

How to protect yourself

Avoid the temptation to rush giddily into an intense new relationship. Scammers know that when you quickly fall head over heels, your money can spill out. "We just can't say it enough: Do not send money transfers or gift card numbers to someone you met through an online dating site or social media," Perkins said.

Before a relationship heats up, try to verify that your online paramour is who he or she claims to be. There are a host of sites that can gather the public records, social media posts and other published data associated with a name or an address, albeit for a fee. You can also run the person's profile picture(s) through a reverse image search, such as the ones from Google or TinEye.com.

While you're at it, run some of the more flowery messages he or she sent you through Google. Pictures copied from someone else's profile and recycled scripts are telltale signs of a scammer. Do the same thing with your new beau's professed occupation, to see how many times people have been bilked by online suitors claiming to be such a person. Especially if your beau claims to work on an offshore oil rig.

Insist on a video chat. At the very least, you'll find out if the person you've been chatting with matches his or her profile picture.

 

Reveal no sensitive personal or financial information.

Run your thoughts by people you trust to get their take on your suitor's legitimacy. Said Perkins: "We found that when people talk to someone they trust and get that gut check … it helps them avoid losing money." If your friends and family say that they're concerned and that the whole setup sounds fishy, listen to them.

And if you conclude that you've been scammed, Perkins said, contact the company that issued the gift card or money transfer and try to cancel the transaction, even though the chances of getting a refund are low. Also, report the person to the FTC, the FBI and the site where you met the dreamboat who turned out to be a nightmare.

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