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New campaign aims to raise awareness toward 'romance scams'

Beware of catfishing.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — It's a swipe left or swipe right kind of dating world these days.

"I don't know many people these days that haven't met their significant person online...while those platforms are great they also allow for those criminals to find other avenues to scam people," says Demitria Gavit of the Cybercrime Support Network.

Victims like a Kent County woman whose online romance last year turned into merchandise fraud according to the Grand Rapids Police Department. 

"That individual wants to believe that because they're lonely. It's hard to convince someone that they might be part of a scam," says Gavit.

Romance scams are gaining steam. The FTC reports that more than $140 million was lost due to romance scams in 2018 alone. Now the Cybercrime Support Network and the United Way have launched the "Red Hearts Red Flags" campaign.

"The reported loss of romance scams is seven times higher than any other cybercrime," says Gavit.

You can protect yourself, one way is to take advantage of new technology and ask for a video chat early on.

"That way you are seeing the person, you know they are real and does it match the photos that are on the dating app," says Gavit.

And be careful about people who quickly tell stories about bad luck or medical problems. That can lead to even bigger red flags like asking for money—even something more simple like asking for gift cards should be met with caution.

"And if you make plans to meet in person and consistently they cancel or postpone, those can be signs of a romance scam," says Gavit.

Romance scam victims in Kent County can call 211 for help.

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