How To Avoid 'Catfish' Or 'Sweetheart' Scams

7:01 AM, Jan 23, 2013   |    comments
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Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Manti Te'o leaves the field follow their defeat to the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2013 BCS Championship game (Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports)
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  • WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- In recent days you may have heard the term "catfishing," or a "catfish scam," a lot. These scams aren't a new phenomenon, but new technology like social media has made them a little more common. They're a lot like the classic "phishing" scams that swipe a consumer's information.

    The Better Business Bureau says these scams are also known as "sweetheart scams," and in 2011 such online dating hoaxes were among their top ten scams of the year.

    In the past, the federal trade commission has advised consumers of some of the warning signs of an online dating hoax. They include:

    • wanting to leave a dating site immediately to switch over to personal email or instant messaging accounts.
    • proclaiming instant feelings of love.
    • claiming to be from the United States, but currently overseas.
    • and planned visits or face-to-face encounters that keep getting upended by tragic or unexpected events. 
    The Better Business Bureau also advises consumers to never wire money to those online sweethearts who ask for help with things like travel, sudden medical emergencies, hospital bills, or to cover an unexpected financial loss.

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