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BBB warns about 'catfishing' scam

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(KYTX) - Before you start a romance with a summer fling, the Better Business Bureau of Central East Texas wants you to take a few precautions.

Online dating scams involving a practice called "catfishing" are becoming all too common. The "catfish" is a person who steals another person's identity online in order to engage in a relationship with someone. The fake profile is used to lure the victim.

Those with the BBB say getting romantically involved with someone online is dangerous physically, emotionally and financially.

"It is becoming more common because more people are finding love online nowadays."

While there are success stories, Mechele Mills with the Better Business Bureau of Central East Texas warns about potential scammers or 'catfish.'

"The tool the scam artists use in this case is love and affection, which is something that people crave."

The term 'catfish' was coined by the 2010 documentary about filmmaker Nev Schulman learning his online crush is not actually who he thinks it is. His movie became a spinoff reality television series profiling other people's similar situations.

"I have been the victim of an Internet romance hoax. And, I know how embarrassing it is." he says. 

You'll remember the national attention it drew with Heisman runner-up Manti Te'o. He told ESPN's Jeremy Schaap he was blindsided after learning his supposed girlfriend never existed.

"Were you in any way a part of this?"

"No. Never." 

"Never?"

"Ever... Would I be part of this." says Te'o. 

Mills says catfishing is an emotional roller coaster that often leads to financial heartache.

"Just like we tell people to do your homework before you spend money with a company or give money to an organization, you should do your homework here."

And, remember to put safety first.

"You don't know who's on the other side of the Internet. Just because you see a picture doesn't necessarily mean it's them."

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