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Tips to Avoiding Romance Scams

It's one of the oldest tricks in the book. An imposter poses as a suitor, entices the victim into a romance and then finally, steals his or her finances. In the days before digital, romance scammers found their unknowing subjects in the back pages of magazines, where fake personal ads lured vulnerable lonely hearts. Now, technology has changed and communication with it. Scammers these days have powerful new tools of deceit that have opened up a much larger pool of potential victims.

If you're dating online these days, here are ten ways you can spot a romance scammer.

1.They want to leave the dating site immediately and use personal email or instant messaging to communicate with you.

2.They make several spelling and grammar mistakes when communicating.

3.They send a personal photo that looks like something from a magazine.

4.They profess their love too quickly.

5.They claim to be from the U.S. but are currently working or travelling overseas.

6.They make excuses about why they can't speak on the phone.

7.They make plans to visit but cancel at the last minute because of a traumatic event or business deal gone bad.

8.They ask for money for a variety of reasons ranging from travel and medical emergencies to hotel bills, hospital bills, visas and official documents.

9.They request that you wire the money or send a cash, check or money order to a third person.

10.They make several ongoing requests for money.

Now that you know how to spot a romance scammer, here are five ways to avoid online dating scams.

1.Adopt an air of mystery. Don't provide your last name, your address or where you work until you've actually met them in person. You should be wary of any suitor for asks for personal information too quickly.

2.Be a turn off. If you're using a mobile app for dating, turn off your location settings so cons can't figure out where you are located.

3.Do your own cyber-stalking. Many scammers will steal people's photos and assume their identities. Before you engage with anyone on a dating site, use Google's 'Search By Image' feature to see if that person's image shows up in other places under a different name.

4.Don't date a fictional character. Verify that the person is real. Conduct an online search to make sure the things you read match up with his/her claims. Is what you see on their Facebook, Twitter or Linked In pages consistent with what they are telling you personally?

5.Get a second opinion. If an email seems suspicious, check it out. Cut and paste the email into Google and see if the words pop up on any romance scam sites.

AARP has launched an online petition asking online dating companies to take commonsense steps to help put a stop to the scammers' abilities to prey on unsuspecting victims. The petition is available at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.

You can sign up for the AARP Fraud Watch Network at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork or by calling 800-646-2283. By joining the AARP Fraud Watch Network, you'll receive alerts and notifications about new scams as they emerge.

File a consumer complaint with the Attorney General's Office at www.atg.wa.gov.