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Valentine’s Scam Warning: Imposters Target the Lovelorn

A new AARP Fraud Watch survey found that more than half of adults have used the Internet to find new friends or dating partners. (Gregg Segal/AARP)
A new AARP Fraud Watch survey found that more than half of adults have used the Internet to find new friends or dating partners. (Gregg Segal/AARP)
February 14, 2019

LOS ANGELES – Millions of Americans look for love online, but more than 25 percent have found scam artists instead or know someone who has, according to a new survey from the aarp.org/AARP Fraud Watch Network.

The online scammers often pose as someone living abroad or on military deployment. They spend weeks and sometimes months gaining trust, then ask for money to visit, or to cover a medical emergency, then disappear.

Kathy Stokes, director of the AARP Fraud Prevention Program, says certain things can be a red flag.

"They profess love very quickly,” she relates. “They try to get them off of the dating site. If they stay on the dating app, they could be monitored by that dating app, but if they get off of that platform, there's no knowledge of what's happening."

Some 17 percent of the survey respondents said they have been asked for money by a person they met online.
Experts say when corresponding online, resist giving out personal information and be very wary if the person promises to visit, then cancels at the last minute.

Stokes says there are ways you can check out the other person's story. In particular, take note if the picture shows someone extremely attractive, or if it looks like a professional photo as opposed to a snapshot.

"Google has an image search, images.google.com,” she says. “Put that picture in there and see what else shows up on the Internet where that picture is involved.

“Maybe it's under somebody else's name and someone has stolen that picture."

You also can take the person's compliments and paste them into your browser to see if the language matches examples of scams posted online.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA