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Online dating is growing in popularity as Facebook, this month, joins dozens of other virtual platforms where people can find love. Facebook officially rolled out its dating platform last week, which requires users to create a separate profile to participate. The goal is to match users based on preferences picked when creating the profile, along with pre-established interests and Facebook activity. But, before you fall head over heels for someone, make sure it’s not a scam. More and more schemers are using fake profiles on dating sites to take money from users.

Here’s how the scam works: You meet someone new online and start chatting. Things move quickly in a romantic direction. As the time to finally meet approaches, the person on the other end has some sort of “emergency” preventing them from being able to see you, unless you send money to help. BBB finds that in many cases, victims of romance scams do send money. In fact, romance scams are a growing nationwide problem – reports filed with the FTC more than doubled from 2017 to 2018. In total, $143 million was lost last year. And, Oregon is among the top 10 states for this type of scam.

The Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific offers these tips on how to spot a romance scam:

In a hurry - Scammers try to move off the dating site you started on – Facebook or not—very quickly. The goal is to get the victim emailing or texting as soon as possible.

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Love at first type - They start to talk about a future together extremely fast, often saying things like “I knew I loved you right away” or making plans to get married, have children, etc.

Hard luck stories - Scammers build up the relationship quickly by sharing intimate, even sad, stories to gain trust and sympathy before they inevitably come up on hard times. If this person has not been willing to meet and then, when it’s finally supposed to happen, something tragic happens – don’t send money. This is a common tactic used to bait victims.

Think you’ve spotted a scam? We want to hear about it. File a report at www.bbb.org/scamtracker.

Dawn Johnson is marketplace manager for the Better Business Bureau + Pacific in Eugene.

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