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Sure, you can find love online. You could also find yourself falling for a clever con artist who will gain your trust and rob you blind. It happens all too often. For the past two years, more money has been lost to romance scams than any other type of scam reported to the FTC.

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Criminals collect millions in romance scams

As a general rule, all scams have similar traits. Here are some obvious ones that raise red flags in the Consumer Protection Division that you should keep in mind. You are contacted out of the blue.

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Anyone who calls, s, send you a letter, texts or comes to your dooryard out of the blue may not have your best interest at heart. You don't have to respond right away, make a decision or even answer the door. You have to send money up front in order to receive a prize. You haven't won anything if you have to pay for it. You need to send money via wire transfer or a reloadable card.

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This is frequently the preferred way for scammers to ask for money. Remember, this is just like sending someone cash - you'll never see it again. You are asked for personal or financial information. Your bank or credit card company will not call and ask to confirm any or personal details they already have on file.

Anyone asking for this information out of the blue is trying to scam you. Don't tell anyone. Scammers want to keep you under their spell. If you tell family and friends, someone may ask dissuade you from interacting with them. If you're asked to keep it a secret, it is a scam. If an offer is really good, it can wait for you to sleep on it and get back to them tomorrow.

Too many times though, scams have to be acted on today only.

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We advise you to be slow to say yes and quick to say no. You get a real looking check. If you get a check and are asked to send money back, it's a scam. If you really think you've come upon unexpected good fortune, take your check to the bank and ask them to verify whether it is real.

This scam preys on people who need money the most and have a hard time obtaining credit by traditional means. When you're in a financial pinch, this sounds like a good way to get some quick, short-term money that you can make up later. Here's how it works, you get a phone call, or go to a website.

Never send money to a virtual love interest you haven't met in person, experts caution

The lender offers a loan to help you with your cash flow crunch, but first asks that you send them usually by wire transfer or reloadable card a loan processing fee, which could be hundreds or thousands of dollars. Like any wire transfer, it is like sending cash, you'll never see the money and you'll definitely never see the "loan" to help you meet your financial obligations.

Don't fall for it. In a legitimate loan scenario, the fees are paid after the loan has been approved, not before. We advise consumers to do their homework and make sure the lender you're dealing with is legitimate and d to help consumers in Maine so you have the necessary consumer protections if something goes wrong with your loan.

Romance scams

Technology exists that criminals use to make any appear on your caller ID. Sometimes the scammers use your own. Always be on the alert that the person you think is calling could be just a way to get you to answer the phone. This scam usually begins with an automated phone call. The caller then requests your credit cardsocial security or other personal information.

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Never give out your credit card, personal or bank information based on an automated phone call. If you do, you're opening yourself up to become a victim of identity theft. Whether you shop for items via Craigslist or some other online swap site, or through the back s of the newspaper or Maine's own Uncle Henry's publication, beware that scammers are everywhere.

Valentine’s day scams - a warning to lonely hearts

Fraudsters use the internet and these publications to dupe folks trying to sell their items for cash. You do has instructed, but find out 5 days later the check was a fraud and you owe the bank whatever money you've spent against that check. Anyone who asks you to wire them money or send back money is scamming you. We suggest if you can't meet the person locally, keep looking for a buyer.

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Always keep your personal safety in mind. Meet in a public place, not a private home.

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Many police stations in Maine have deated meeting spaces for this purpose. Another version tries to persuade you that your computer has a serious tech problem that needs immediate repair. In both instances the fraudsters want you to give them remote access to your computer. By doing so you give them free reign to your personal information, ability to download malware and spyware onto your computer.

To make matters worse they will probably lock your computer and ask for a ransom in order unlock it. If you get this call hang up. If you are contacted via pop up or about these things, delete them.

Romance scams take record dollars in

If you're concerned about your computer's safety or running ability, take it to a local tech for assistance. If you're struggling to make ends meet, there are non-profit credit counseling agencies in Maine who can help you figure out a debt relief plan. We discourage you from hiring a company that promises to help you get out of debt for a fraction of the cost and in record time.

It simply doesn't work that way. Unfortunately, they only make a bad situation worse by taking your money for themselves and not distributing it to your creditors, which will further damage your credit score and may lead to lawsuits against you. Fake check scams typically begin when you're sent a check that looks real, but is actually fake. You're told to deposit the "check" and send a portion of the money back to the scam artist or a third person - usually by wire transfer or a reloadable card. After you send the money you soon find out the cashed check was fake and you just sent money to a stranger and the bank is draining all of your s to get their money back.

Do not fall for this one! Someone calls you on the phone indicating that they are from the government and that the government wants to give you a government grant. They just need your bank s to deposit the check. Recently, many Mainers have encountered this scam via Facebook messenger, where someone they "know" has heard of this grant and wants to share their good fortune with you. Often, the person you know is a spoofed profile of your friend and actually a scammer.

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Someone calls claiming to be your grandchild. The scammer claims there has been a mishap and money is needed immediately. Perhaps they claim they are in jail and need bail money, but ask you not to tell their parents in fear of getting in more trouble. Keeping it a secret is always a red flag! Some grandparents have set aside their common sense to come to the rescue of a relative in need, but it is a sham.

Never wire money or give out bank info based on a telephone call.

What is a romance scam?

Avoid this scam by verifying the caller's identity and resisting pressure to act before the caller's identity is verified by calling a family member who could confirm the caller's story. Try contacting the real grandchild at a you know is accurate. You receive a letter in the mail,or phone call indicating you've won thousands of dollars in a lottery or sweepstakes.

Finally, you think, all of your problems are solved! Unfortunately, they soon ask you to send money to them to cover fees, taxes, legal processing, or some other made up hoop to get you to send them more money.

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While the cons always have an answer, you'll never see any money. Don't fall for this too good to be true scam. Other scams come from businesses you've heard of and give the impression if you buy more of their product, you'll have more chances at winning the big prize. Have you ever met anyone who has won the big prize? We haven't either. It's a scam. Save your money where there are better odds - at the bingo hall.

You've probably seen the TV ad for a device that you wear and push a button if you've fallen and can't get up. The device calls for help.