With Valentine's Day on the horizon, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning people not to fall prey to romance scams or online dating-service contract disputes.
The day for lovers brings with it a rise in complaints from unsatisfied would-be suitors: "It does tend to go up as we approach Valentine's Day," Karla Laird, the BBB's Mainland B.C. branch manager for community and public relations, told the Georgia Straight by phone.
The Mainland B.C. branch warned in a February 10 bulletin that online dating services generated more than 1,100 complaints in 2019.
The top gripe among those complaints was "difficulty cancelling membership" because of automatic renewals with services that ask for a minimum membership period and charge monthly fees.
Many consumers were either unaware of the actions required to cancel membership or they followed proper procedure but continued to be billed. As well, some people signed up for what they thought was a "free trial" but had their credit cards charged before they made a decision on whether to continue or not.
Scammers with fake identities seeking to defraud the lovelorn with "emergency" monetary requests after a period of wooing also may inhabit some online dating services, the BBB warns.
"Consumers should also be wary of fake dating profiles and other traps that could leave them swindled and heartbroken," Laird said in the release. "Even if you do not sign up for a dating service, romance scams through social media and email are quite common."
Romance fraud ranked at the top of the BBB's 2018 top 10 scams in Canada. Reported losses topped $22.5 million that year.
The BBB advises to be wary of success stories in advertising claims for dating services and not to succumb to high-pressure sales tactics.
"The best advice would be to do your homework before you pick your dating service," Laird told the Straight. "At the end of the day, also, read the [contract] fine print."
Laird also said that the BBB's experience with frustrated consumers taught them to advise people not to be timid about severing ties with unsatisfactory services, just as they would in the dating pool with an unsuitable match.
"Know how to break up," she told the Straight. "That's the biggest takeaway we learned."