Scam Watch: consumers conned by would-be lovers

Here is a roundup of alleged cons, frauds and schemes to watch out for.

Romance scam

With Valentine's Day approaching, now might be a good time for lonely consumers to watch out for a con called the "romance scam."

In this scam, criminals pose as would-be lovers through social media or dating websites, strike up an Internet-based relationship and then ask for money so they can travel to meet their pursuer. Once the lonely victim sends the money, the conversations end and the money is gone.

MoneyGram International Inc., a money-transfer company, said those in the dating market should avoid sending money to people they've never met. And once someone asks for money, it's time to look for someone new.

Time-share marketing

Time-share owners across the United States have been scammed out of huge sums of money by criminals who offer to buy time shares but instead steal deposits they said were necessary to start the process, law enforcement officials said.

Often, the criminal will call a time-share owner and say he has a buyer lined up and will need to be paid an advance fee to begin the process, according to a news release from the Internet Crime Complaint Center, which includes representatives from the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.

Once the fee is paid, the sales representative vanishes along with the money. The agency recommends that consumers be wary of sales reps who ask for upfront fees and check with organizations such as the Better Business Bureau to determine whether the business has a history of consumer complaints.

Super Bowl trick plays

The Better Business Bureau is warning football fans to avoid a variety of scams centered around the upcoming Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and New York Giants.

Among the biggest concerns are counterfeit tickets and merchandise, such as team jerseys. There are thousands of Super Bowl tickets listed for sale on the Internet. It's best to use websites that guarantee tickets' authenticity, such as stubhub.com, the BBB said in a news release.

To avoid being sold bogus team merchandise, fans should avoid deals that sound too good to be true and to use websites that are guaranteed to sell legitimate merchandise, such as the National Football League's Internet site nfl.com.

stuart.pfeifer@latimes.com

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