BBB Warns of ‘Rip-Off Romeos’, V-Day Fraud

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CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Valentine's Day is arguably the most romantic holiday of the year.

It’s a time when sweethearts hope to steal a kiss or seal their love with an amorous gift.

But before you buy your sweetheart something special this year, the Better Business Bureau says you better beware.

They say some heartless bad guys are coming after you online.

“Scammers are definitely targeting people at Valentine’s day,” said Sue McConnell, senior vice president at the BBB serving greater Cleveland.

The biggest scam involves one of the most popular gifts: flowers.

The scammers are phishing. They’re sending out mass emails to everyone hoping someone has ordered flowers for their loved ones.

“The email says your order didn’t go through and they need you to resubmit your credit card information,” said McConnell.

But be warned, if you give them your information, they will steal from you.

“It’s become an enormous problem,” said McConnell. “Everybody has an email address, and scammers can get to all of us sitting in our home.”

They’re also sending phony package alerts that look like they’re from major shipping companies and even fake valentine e-cards.

“These emails look so real. They use the logos of UPS, Fedex or FTD or Terra Flora,” said McConnell.

She said it’s important to roll your mouse or cursor over any links before clicking on it.

If you do not see the company's name or official web address, do not click on it. McConnell said if there is a foreign country address or something like “.EU,” also do not click on it.

When in doubt, McConnell advises people to call the companies first to confirm the request before clicking on any links. Once a link is opened, the scammers can begin installing viruses on your computer that will record and steal all of your personal information and passwords.

“You have to be vigilant,” said McConnell.

Dating websites are falling prey to people pretending they’re in love.

McConnell said they wait until the target is vulnerable on a day like Valentine’s Day to strike.

“They’re going to want money from you,” said McConnell.

Word of the scams has local florists angry.

Tara Prior, president with Terra Flora, owners of Silver Fox Florist in Westlake, said Valentine’s Day is one of their biggest days of the year, and this threat is the last thing they need in a struggling economy.

“It gets harder every day, and now to have someone who is scamming, pretending to be you and scamming customers it’s infuriating,” said Prior.

She said -- and the BBB agreed -- that customers should always call the actual company they placed an order with to confirm any email contact before giving out information on line.

They said being safe beats being defrauded, because scammers will turn a “heartthrob” into “heartburn” faster than you can say Happy Valentine’s Day.

“It puts damper on whole spirit of everything,” said Prior.

The Better Business Bureau also offers these tips to avoid being scammed:

-- If you correspond with someone online, be cautious of anyone who proclaims instant feelings of love, hints that they are in financial trouble or continually cancel face-to-face visits.

-- Confirm that any florist you are placing an order with is actually the florist fulfilling the order and who your contact should be for follow-up. Request a written receipt for your order.

-- If you receive an email about a package or delivery that you do not expect or didn't send, do not open it. Verify any information directly with the shipping company.

-- Pay close attention to links and files before clicking or downloading them. Verify that any web address you are being directed to is where you intend to actually visit. Enhance email filters and maintain updated anti-virus and malware software. Be sure to only open E-cards from those you know or trust.

For more tips and warning signs, click here.