Love, loss, and looking for work: Scammers target legit sites - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Love, loss, and looking for work: Scammers target legit sites

POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KFVS) -

It can be love, loss, or even looking for work.

Local experts say the latest online scams often tug at your heartstrings, before ripping you off

"The people who scam you, they follow the news," explained Detective Scott Phelps with the SEMO Cyber Crimes Task Force. "They follow events that go on and they invent new ways to exploit people."

Looking for love online is not only commonplace these days, it is a $1 billion a year industry. But, Phelps says, some of the men and women on here are looking not for love, but for money.

"They basically take advantage of people who may be lonely or want a relationship," Phelps explained. "And those usually take a while because they will earn your trust."

Once that happens, Phelps says they will start asking for your help.

"I'll come see you if you send me two or three hundred dollars for a plane ticket, or whatever the case may be," he said.

And the payoff comes in the sheer number of relationships they develop.

"You're not just victimizing one person, these people are usually victimizing several people at the same time," Phelps added.

Phelps says watch for people who try to contact you off the dating site. And be smart. You may be risking your heart, just don't risk your wallet.

Legitimate job sites abound online.

But, experts say scammers seek you out using mass emails often tied to legitimate current events, like the BP oil spill back in 2010.

"There were emails out about well-paying jobs to help with the cleanup," Phelps recalled. "Well, it was scammers getting your personal information, of course, to start the application process. But these jobs weren't available from those people. If you get an email as far as a job goes and you want to look into it, then go do it personally. Verify the company's legitimate. Don't just respond to their email with your information."

Do you read the obituaries? Detective Phelps says scammers do and will often call to say your lost loved one has an outstanding debt.

"And they do that because they know at a time like that, people are more susceptible to fall for something like that," he said.

In this case, and all cases Phelps says, verify the call is real.  He says taking that extra step can often stop even the most seasoned scammers.

"These scammers can still tell a story and suck them right in and get their information," Phelps said. "Even in the back of their minds they know, I shouldn't give them this, they still do."

In order to avoid possible online scams, Detective Phelps offers these tips:

  • Delete all emails in your junk folder
  • Never respond to an email from an address you don't recognize
  • Make your own contact with the website or individual if you're interested in what they have to offer.

Copyright 2012 KFVS. All rights reserved.

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