Online Dating Scams: Don’t Get Burned

With today’s technology, finding love has become easier than ever, but the same technology has given rise to all kinds of scams. If you’re thinking about trying online dating, it’s important to educate yourself about scams that, unfortunately, have become all too common.

Online Dating Scams

Watch for Fake Profile Information

As you look through the profiles on the dating sites, keep these tips in mind.

Fake profiles can be a good indication of a scam. It’s important to pay attention to all of the information a person posts online.

A fake profile can include false names, incorrect ages, and stolen photographs. They can also include fake data about past relationships and education. Most profiles are not verified for accuracy, and a person can say anything they want to say.

Fake profiles aren’t always easy to spot on online dating sites.

Pay particular attention to inconsistencies. For example, a profile with a weight of 100 pounds doesn’t usually make sense with a height of six feet. Other clues can appear if you start searching for the data online.

Use a search function or app to see if the photos in a profile belong to someone else.  One way to do this is by using Google Images. Download the person’s profile picture, go to google/images and upload the photo you just downloaded. Google will show you any copies of the photo that are online, and you will be able to see if it really belongs to the person that is claiming it.

Pay Attention to Grammar and Spelling

An occasional typo isn’t a big deal, but a profile filled with grammar and spelling mistakes needs to be approached carefully. It may be an indication of a foreign scam because they don’t understand the language well.

Online Dating

Another clue is when a person’s name doesn’t match their gender.  Although it is becoming more and more common (in the US) for names to be given to either gender, that generally applies to someone younger than you would find on a dating site. A scammer that speaks a different language than you do, will often not understand the naming conventions of the country they are targeting, so you may see something like a man saying his name is Mary or Lisa.

One of the most common scams on online dating websites is a person claiming to be from one country but actually living in another one.

Be Careful About Sharing Personal Data

You probably know you shouldn’t give out banking information, but other data is important as well. Avoid mentioning your home address, phone numbers, your mother’s maiden name, and other information.  Think about the kind of information you give for security questions, like your High School, city you were born in, first pet’s name, etc.  Don’t share them with potential dates. Criminals can and will use this data in multiple ways.

Are You A “Softie”? Watch Out For Sad Stories

An online dating website can give people the opportunity to share their stories, but you want to be careful.  A common scam involves a tragic or sad story that makes you feel sorry for the person. Then, they ask you for help and tend to request large sums of money immediately. The stories differ, but they often involve a sick grandparent or dying uncle.

A co-worker friend of mine was looking for a mail-order bride.  He found an interested woman and went so far as to visit her country to meet her and her family. Things seemed great, and he flew back to the US, leaving her with several thousand dollars to get her things in order and to fly to US so they could be married.  A couple of weeks later, she called to say that her brother had died, and she had to use the money on his funeral. The co-worker felt sorry for her, and sent her another several thousand, even though everyone at work tried to tell him he was being scammed. But lo and behold, the lady came to the US and married him.  Three weeks later, she emptied out his bank account and took off for good.

That’s kind of an extreme case, but scammers will play on your compassion to make you give them money out of pity.

Avoid Demands for Communication Away From the Website

It’s one thing when you’ve decided that the person is legit and you are ready to meet in a safe place. But another scam involves you emailing or calling the person you meet online. Be careful about moving communication away from the original dating website. Scammers will often ask you to provide personal email addresses and phone numbers. They may also ask you to video chat or send instant messages.

Meeting Offline

Another scam involves pushy requests to meet you in person. This happened to a friend of mine on Twitter. She had her real picture on her profile and a lot of men would tell her how beautiful she was. Not just as a nice compliment, but they would really pile it on thick! She would tell them she was not looking for a relationship, but they would often keep on. One in particular wanted her email address, so they could talk “better”, not on Twitter. She insisted that they could talk just fine on Twitter, and he got very pushy! Almost threatening.

This is the first step is getting you into a vulnerable position.  Something to take note of – we are talking about online dating, but these kinds of scammers are everywhere, including Twitter, Facebook, and other social sites.

Take It Slow

It takes time to get to know a person online and ensure the interactions are real. Avoid jumping too quickly into personal communication away from the website. For your own safety, it’s important not to give in to pressure to make the relationship serious before you’re ready.

Online dating can be a fun adventure, but it’s important to have realistic expectations. Be cautious. Predators also use online dating. Use these tips to stay safe, so you won’t get burned.

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