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True love or financial fraud?

By Marcie Geffner · Bankrate.com
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Posted: 3 pm ET

Valentine's Day is supposed to be about romance.

But for some sad lonely hearts, the holiday turns out to be a financial scam, rather than true love.

Indeed, social media and online dating frauds are so widespread that the national Better Business Bureau included the category in its list of the Top Ten Financial Scams of 2011.

And MoneyGram, a global money transfer company in Dallas, has taken the annual lover's holiday as an opportunity to remind consumers that blind online relationships can result in empty bank accounts.

Kim Garner, senior vice president of global security and investigations at MoneyGram, said in a statement consumers should look beyond the red hearts and roses and stay alert to warning signs that could mean a budding relationship is a setup for a financial fraud.

Here, from MoneyGram, are some timely tips for online daters.

  • Any request for money or access to financial information is always a big red flag. Often these requests come in the guise of gifts, sick relatives or airplane tickets, supposedly meant to meet in person. Just say no.

"Anytime someone asks for money before they've met in person or developed an honest long-term relationship, it's typically a warning sign that something isn't right," Garner says. "Fraudsters are good at what they do, so make sure love truly is in the air before money is going somewhere across the country or the world."

  • Confessions of instant love or overly intimate messages and gifts sent too soon could be a sign a relationship isn't headed in a legitimate direction. Watch out.
  • Communication that's all one way could mean the person on the other end of the online conversation isn't real. Walk away.
  • Inconsistent roller coaster-like contact also could mean the person is trying to build trust with multiple prospective victims. Be suspicious.

MoneyGram also reminds consumers to never send money to strangers, never show or share information about a money transfer to anyone but the recipient, and never accept an offer that promises easy money, especially if it involves sending money first.

Follow me on Twitter: @marciegeff.

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