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Different kinds of love scams: Watch out for your heart and your money this Valentine’s Day

As Valentine’s Day approaches, we see pink and red hearts, cute stuffed animals, and carefully packaged boxes of candy on every store shelf. Television shows are increasingly interrupted by jewelry and romantic getaway ads. And scam busters are increasingly warning against romance scams. 

These types of scams are still around, but scammers continue to expand their themes to reach new targets. Here are just a few of the ways scammers are playing on the love we feel for others as we approach Valentine’s Day 2023.

Love for your family, present and future: Student loan forgiveness scams

Finances are not going great for you right now. The cost of everything seems to be rising. At least the cost of everything but your labor seems to be rising. Bills are going up, while your income remains the same. Your partner, spouse, children, parents, or someone else in your household has some extra expenses coming up soon, but you just don’t know how you’ll afford them if you can’t reduce the monthly bills a bit. 

Seeking student loan reduction and/or forgiveness is one way to cut those household bills, freeing up more income to devote to your family’s more immediate needs. Scammers know how important reducing this expense is for many people, and they are more than ready to exploit that. 

Contact from a third party is the first warning sign that the student loan reduction or forgiveness program is a scam. All legitimate information about your student loan will come directly from your student loan servicer, at their regular addresses or phone numbers. Genuine representatives from your loan provider will never ask you to visit a completely different website. You will either be on their site, or on the official website of Federal Student Aid for all transactions. And nobody should ever ask you to pay even the smallest fee for any type of consolidation, reduction, or forgiveness program. It is also impossible to have your loan instantly and completely forgiven. Anyone who makes such a promise is only setting you up for a scam. 

Love for your friends: Spoofed facebook accounts 

Every time you log onto facebook, your feed is cluttered with endless articles somebody “researched” by doing nothing more than gathering comments on reddit, ads vaguely related to everything you’ve searched outside the site, and people endlessly congratulating themselves on their “boundaries.” If this were not the way you get to see pictures of your grandkids or keep up with the gang from ten years ago, you would just close down your account. 

Getting an instant message from a friend is a welcome surprise. The two of you exchange pleasantries, but then the conversation takes an odd turn. Your friend seems to want something from you, some support for a business they started, or somebody to sign up under them in some type of new investment. 

Take a step back before you end the friendship. This is not the person it appears to be. Scammers exploit our friendships by spoofing, or directly copying, everything from a person’s account. They then use these fake accounts to talk their targets into everything from fake investments to purchasing things that do not actually exist, to applying for jobs on fake sites, with the goal of stealing their information and committing identity theft. 

Reach out to your friend using a known phone number or email address, then block the fake account. 

Love for animals/pets: Pet adoption scams

This year, you have decided to make some changes in your life, and one of those changes is going to involve a new pet. You know you want either a dog or a cat, but you haven’t made any firm decisions. You join a few online groups for fans of your favorite breeds, and begin scouring ads, looking for adoptable pets. 

Mid-scroll, you see the animal that you just know is your new little one. And they, along with the rest of their litter, are up for adoption. You like the post, and immediately receive a message from the person who put it up. The one you want is available for adoption, and they will even take the “rehoming fee,” a modest amount to cover travel expenses on their trip to bring your new family member to you, right there via an app. 
Of course, there is no pet up for adoption. The photo was either stolen, or it is of a pet the person has no intention of giving up. Pet adoption scams are reportedly experiencing yet another surge in popularity in early 2023. 

Refuse to give anyone any money for a pet that is not with you offline and in person. It doesn’t matter how many times the person is willing to chat with you on Zoom, holding the pet up to the camera, how many pictures they have of the animal, or how many comments you see on their page from happy new pet parents who received their puppy or kitten from this person. Reviews can be faked, photos can be stolen in large quantities, and the person may have no intention of parting with the pet you saw on Zoom. 

This February, celebrate the love you have for your partner, your relatives, your friends, and your pets. Celebrate with a box of heart shaped candy, a pink teddy bear, and some red flowers if that’s your thing. Just make sure to protect those hearts…and your own…from the new year’s most active scams. 

Utica Phoenix Staff
Utica Phoenix Staffhttp://www.uticaphoenix.net
The Utica Phoenix is a publication of For The Good, Inc., a 501 (c) (3) in Utica, NY. The Phoenix is an independent newsmagazine covering local news, state news, community events, and more. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and also check out Utica Phoenix Radio at 95.5 FM/1550 AM, complete with Urban hits, morning talk shows, live DJs, and more.

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