The world has become a much more interconnected and virtual place. This makes it easy for everyone to socialize on a level never experienced before, but also makes it easier for people to fall victim to online scams. In the online dating space, it has become common for scammers to take advantage of innocent often vulnerable people, looking for companionship.These con-artists hide their true intentions behind the veil of love and romance.
You might be saying, “I am savvy enough to not fall victim”, but these scams are no longer taking place on chat rooms of the dark web. Instead they are found on well-known dating apps and social media platforms. These scammers operate by gaining your trust and are willing to put the time in to do so. They set up fake profiles with fake backstories. As unreal as it sounds, these things do happen. In 2017 the FBI stated that Americans lost $211,382,989 via online dating scams. To help keep you informed we have identified some red flags for you to look out for to identify and avoid being scammed online.
1. If It’s Too Good To Be True It’s Probably A Scam
Be aware that if someone is incredibly “into you” very quickly, and meets all your wildest romantic ideals in a partner, consider it too good to be true.
A common tactic in online dating scams is to shower the target with compliments. Also, the scammer will do everything possible to fit the image of the ideal partner for the target. This person doesn’t know you, but they speak of their love for you. They will agree with everything you say, they will claim to have similar interests as you. They may claim to have similar religious and political views. Anything to win you over. They will make you the center of the conversation. This not only makes you feel important but takes the attention off them. They will also want to move to more personal forms of contact (texts,and emails for example) relatively quickly to isolate and target you.
In these situations, we say ask them questions, delve deeper into their lives. This can cause them to become uncomfortable and irrational. They may turn it on you and guilt trip you for ‘interrogating’them. It is at this point you should see through the con.
Unlike the case above, the scammer will often extend the olive branch to you first, providing seemingly intimate information, to come across as someone who is vulnerable, open, honest, and trustworthy. This sets up the psychological illusion that it is safe and comfortable for you to share your information, since this person is so open with you. The character they portray often are individuals going through some hardship. Beware of this as it is a simple but effective tactic to gain your trust and empathy.
If you find yourself in this situation act cautious, tell them to slow down. There is nothing wrong with looking up someone and seeing if what they are saying is the truth. Make sure their story checks out, and if they have no digital footprint, for your own safety it is better to not make further contact.
3. They Refuse To Meet Face To Face, Whether In Person Or Video Chat
They will always have excuses when the time comes to meet in person. Often, they will claim to work overseas, or in a different state to you and will be unable to travel due to work commitments. While these can be valid excuses, if they are unable to video chat, then you should be alerted. In this case they may try to calm your fears, and send you pictures of themselves at work, home, or famous monuments in the area they claim to be from.
A clever trick we suggest is to run these images through reverse image search engine, where you upload the image, and what is returned are websites, where this image is found on. This will inform you if the images of the individuals are in-fact of themselves or “borrowed” from other sources or stock images.
4. They Are In Some Sort Of Dire Situation, Needing Your Financial Assistance
If they ask for money right away, within the first few days of chatting online, treat it as a scam, and stop further interactions. If it has been a couple weeks be alerted but refuse to give them money. Once rejected, often their reasons and excuses become more outlandish and they become more desperate. They may start complementing you more, profess their love for you abundantly. While it may be persuasive, you must resist. They may try to make you feel bad for not helping them – directly or in a passive aggressive way – but this is yet another red flag that you are being scammed.
We suggest that you never give large sums of money to anyone that you haven’t met in person or have known for some time. If they say they live elsewhere and ask you to pay for them to visit you, make sure they have the relevant travel documents, and rather pay directly for the travelling costs instead of giving them the money to pay for their own travel arrangements. Do your research and make sure to whom you are paying your money to are reliable and well known.
In the more general sense, to avoid an online dating scam, it is extremely helpful to inform your family or closest friends about the situation. They are not emotionally involved and will be able to see through the compliments. Listen to your family members or friends if they are skeptical, they are most likely right. Also, if holes appear in the scammer’s stories be skeptical. Finally, do not disclose any financial personal information about yourself.
If you feel you are being scammed, alert the relevant authorities about it, information is a quick Google search away. Also, notify the developers of the app or dating website, to block the account to prevent further scams.
The main thing to remember is your safety and safety of your family, so share this advice with them.