HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- People reported losing $143 million to romance scams in 2018, according to the Federal Trade Commission. They say that is a higher total than for any other type of scam reported.
Since Valentine's Day is right around the corner, the Better Business Bureau serving North Alabama is warning against the scam.
"People who are on dating sites and looking for a possible mate can very easily be scammed, especially this time of year," says Elizabeth Garcia, the president of BBB North Alabama.
Garcia says as you develop the relationship, the scammer will try to convince you to give them money.
"They might say 'Well, my brother is in serious trouble, he needs a serious operation, it's going to cost thousands of dollars, can you help me out?' or 'I want to come visit you and I'm so desperate to see you but I can't because I don't have enough money for a plane ticket, could you please send me money?'"
You might not know their actual identity, so you need to be cautious.
"Pictures can easily be stolen," says Garcia. "The true identity of the person behind that profile -- you don't really know who that is until you're able to see and talk to that person."
Anybody can hide behind a screen, so the BBB says the best way to avoid being scammed or cat-fished is to first talk to the person you met over video on something like Skype or Facetime. If they ever ask you for money, Garcia says to completely stop all communication with them.
You don't have to stop finding matches online, just be careful. There might be a different face behind the screen than in the pictures.
You can report any scammers on the Better Business Bureau's Scam Tracker to warn others looking for love.