BBB issues Valentine’s Day warning for online daters

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DENVER — If you’re looking for love online this Valentine’s Day, beware.

The Denver/Boulder Better Business Bureau says online -and traditional- dating services can sometimes leave you frustrated, ripped-off and possibly heartbroken.

More than 65 consumers filed complaints about dating services with the BBB serving Denver/Boulder in 2011 — a slight increase compared to 2010. Complaints ranged from billing issues, lack of promised services, trouble cancelling memberships, and other customer service issues.

“Trying to find love through a third-party service can be great for many but difficult and even dangerous for others,” warns Dale Mingilton, president and CEO of the BBB Serving Denver/Boulder. “We urge consumers to research the reputation of dating services before handing over large fees and to beware of criminals who use online services to find victims.”

The BBB offers the following advice on matchmaking and online dating services:

  • Don’t give in to high-pressure sales tactics. Sales associates may tell you that a low price is only good for that day and ask you to sign a contract immediately. You should take the contract home, read it carefully and make sure you understand what you are signing and paying for.
  • Know how to break up. Consumers should not assume that they will stop being billed once the contract runs out. Many online dating sites automatically renew memberships. Usually you must call the company or send written instructions to avoid being billed again. Know in advance what you need to do to cancel.
  • Beware of “sweetheart scams.” Be very skeptical of any “match” who tries to sweet-talk you into sending them money, especially via wire transfer. Criminals have been known to set up fake profiles, oftentimes posing as a military member, and start relationships online only to ultimately guilt their victim into sending them money for various reasons.
  • Read and understand privacy and security policies. Make sure the company makes such policies available on their Web site or to you in writing. Understand how your information is collected and protected.
  • Do your homework. Ask to speak to other members or customers of the service about their experiences.
  • Check the company’s BBB Business Review by visiting www.denver.bbb.org or by calling (303) 758.2100.

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