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Don’t be seduced by romance scams

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel urges Michiganders to be mindful of romance scams.

To ensure consumers protect themselves if interested in using a dating service, Nessel’s office recommends reviewing the “Romance Scams: Stay Safe and Avoid Financial Heartache” consumer alert and remember these tips:

— Read your contract and terms of agreement carefully before signing, including all “fine print,” so you know exactly what you’re buying. Some contracts make it easy for the dating service to avoid responsibility but difficult for consumers to get their money back.

— Never give someone you haven’t met money. Scammers are smart and will play on your emotions to get information they need to carry out their scam or to get your money. The Federal Bureau of Investigation reports that in the United States, romance scams account for the highest financial losses of all internet-facilitated crimes.

— Be cautious with your personal information, including your financial information, contact information and photographs of yourself.

— Never agree to meet for the first time in a private setting. Insist on a public place where there are sure to be other people around and tell a member of your family or a friend where you will be and when you will contact them again after the meeting. Arrange your own transportation to and from the meeting and have a working mobile phone with you, if possible, with a pre-programmed, one-touch emergency number. Make sure to leave all available information about the person you will be meeting with your contact.

— Conduct an online reverse image search to see where else the person’s image appears and whether it has been altered before you swipe right or pursue a relationship based on an online profile image.

— Be suspicious if the other person refuses to talk on the phone or do a video call before you meet in person.

Cyber criminals also work hard to get your personal information when you are trying to order common gift items like flowers, chocolates and various edible products. Bad actors use those gift keywords to bait online shoppers; these online shopping tips will help protect consumers:

— Give gifts, not personal information. Only shop on secure websites with an “https” address. Stick to shopping apps that tell you what they do with your data and how they keep it secure. Avoid offers that ask you to give financial information — no matter how tempting. They might be trying to steal your identity.

— Avoid phishing emails. Scammers work hard to craft an email that looks like it’s coming from a popular retailer, but before you believe it’s legitimate, ask yourself these questions: Do you have an account with this company? Is the actual email address abnormally long? Are there misspelled words or poor grammar in the body of the email?

— Remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If that ad you saw online or in your email is promoting an unrealistic discount and wants you to enter your personal information to “unlock the savings,” don’t do it.

— Read the Online Shopping Tips consumer alert.

Nessel’s office also urges consumers to contact their local law enforcement if they fear for their safety and the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection team to file a general consumer complaint. Consumer complaints can be filed online or by calling 877-765-8388.

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