Hints from Heloise: Protecting yourself from online love scammers
Dear Heloise: You often write about scams, which have saved many people from making a mistake with their savings and other financial info. Now that the holidays are here, many people get especially lonely and can fall prey to con artists who take advantage of these people. It’s a time of year when romance scams seem to increase, but there are some things to look out for and ways to avoid being taken advantage of by a scammer.
≤ If the photo online looks too glamorous, it might not be the person you’re talking to. Try this: If you have Chrome, right click on their picture and it should offer the option to search Google for this image. You can also copy their image into Google Images to see if their picture is being used elsewhere.
≤ Watch out for people who say they work or live in a foreign country. Scammers love to use pictures of people in military uniform.
≤ DO NOT send them money under any circumstances. NO exceptions.
≤ DO NOT share financial information with them. If you own your own home or have investments, it’s none of their business. Don’t share this information.
≤ Scammers love to use emotional manipulation to get money from people. They’re stuck in a foreign country, wrongfully jailed, etc., or want to come and see you but something always comes up.
≤ Do a video chat with them. Most scammers avoid video chats because they’ve been lying to you all along.
≤ Trust your intuition. Sometimes your gut level feelings are an indicator that something is wrong.
≤ Scammers like to move fast. They’ll tell you they love you when it’s much too soon to make a declaration like that to someone they don’t really know.
≤ If you’ve had a problem with a scammer who stole your money or identity, contact the Federal Trade Commission (ftc.gov). You can also pick up more information on scams and fraud at www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud. — Courtney H., Boston
Dear Heloise: One of the best ways to protect yourself online is to change your password at least two or three times a year. Keep a notebook where you record the date of the change, what the old password was and what the new password is now. Make sure the new password is long and strong using upper- and lowercase letters, and something no one else would figure out.
Also get rid of accounts you don’t visit anymore or ones you no longer do business with. Cut back on social media accounts. And never use the same password twice. — Len D., Mesa, Arizona
Dear Heloise: About two years ago I lost my sweet dog named Sammy. He was such a good pet, and I had him with me from the time he was born until his final day. That was 16 years of love and devotion from a very dear pet.
My hurt seemed to consume me until a friend of mine told me to volunteer at a local animal shelter. What a difference it’s made in my life! I highly recommend volunteering at a shelter for anyone who has lost a pet. You’ll make such a difference in the lives of lost or abandoned cats and dogs. — Anne in Maine
EDITOR’S NOTE: Send a money-saving or timesaving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001, or you can fax it to 1-210-HELOISE or email it to Heloise@Heloise.com. I can’t answer your letter personally but will use the best hints received in my column.