Each year thousands of people who are searching for love end up with nothing but a broken heart and an empty wallet.
Millions of people around the world use online dating sites and apps. And there are many success stories of people finding love and companionship online. But as well as the successes, there are also online dating scams – and these are on the rise.
While online dating and social media sites have become increasingly popular tools to find love and friendship, they’ve unfortunately also become popular tools for fraudsters known as romance scammers. These con artists create fake profiles to lure in victims, establish romantic relationships and eventually, extort money.
How to protect yourself from being scammed
Don’t share personal details
If you share personal information like your full name, date of birth and home address with a stranger, you may not know what they’ll do with it. Try not to share personal details online with people whom you already know, either – you may end up sending it to a fraudster pretending to be them. You should also be careful when picking your user name on dating websites – don’t include personal information like your location These include your contact details, such as your phone number or email or home address.
Don’t send or receive money
Do not send or receive money from anyone you’ve met online, no matter how convincing their story is. This applies to cash as well as your bank account, credit card or other financial details. If the request is coming from someone you think you know, check with them offline to ensure that it’s really them.
Use trusted dating websites
Fraudsters tend to want to take their criminal activity off reputable dating websites as soon as possible. They’re likely to try to convince you to interact with them via social media or text messaging. This is so that the dating website has no proof of them asking you for money. If you’re in touch with someone on this type of website, communicate with them through the site’s messaging services.
Think twice before using your webcam
Be careful when using your webcam with a new online love interest, even if it’s someone whom you think you know. The footage could be used against you. This applies to cameras on all devices, from computers and laptops to smartphones and tablets.
Trust your instincts
If you feel like something is wrong, it may be. Be careful.
How to report a dating scam
Profile Warning Signs
On dating apps, scammers and bots will have very limited profile information. They also tend to only have one or two photos and do not link their profile to their Instagram or other accounts. Their profiles have very few images or images that seem to be model or glamour stock photos. Despite looking for singles in your area, they work or live in another country.
They Try to Take the Conversation Elsewhere
Online dating scammers, especially those that catfish their victims, will quickly ask you to move to another form of messaging outside the platform where you met. This not only helps them get more of your information, but it helps them avoid the safety measures dating apps and sites have in place. Be wary of anyone you haven’t met that wants to move the conversation to another platform.
Your Match Professes Love Early On
Online dating scammers tend to move very quickly in terms of professing an emotional connection. Within a short period, they may say they love you and that they feel a very deep connection to you. This is all part of the emotional manipulation involved in online dating site scams. It’s also why people who are vulnerable and isolated are such desirable targets—since they’re yearning for a connection. You should look out for any matches that are overly flattering and overly devoted early on in your communication when you haven’t even met.
They Avoid Meet-Ups
A common line among online dating scammers is that they want to meet you, but when the time comes, there is always some unexpected issue. Since the scammer is not the person they claim to be, they don’t want to meet in person. The inability to meet you may even be the supposed reason they first try to solicit money from a victim. They may claim to need money to buy a ticket to travel to meet you.
They Avoid Video Chat Completely
Scammers might avoid phone calls or voice and video chats. However, many can fake their accents or put on a specific voice. However, a catfish will not appear in a video chat since they use fake profile images. Be wary if your match is never willing to video chat or always makes excuses about their camera being broken.