If You Are Searching for Love, Don't Fall for Online Dating Scams That Prey on Your Heart
It's very easy to fall for a scam if you fall for an Internet 'sweetheart' who only wants to steal your money, not your heart
Have you used online dating in an attempt to find true love? If so, you aren't alone. According to Pew research studies, about thirty percent of Americans have used online dating to find compatible partners since the days of the first dating sites. That's a lot of people wanting love, but also a lot of people who are potential victims of scammers taking advantage of the desire to find love at last.
A Fake profile is Just the Beginning
Romance scams are one of the darker sides to online dating. Scammers create profiles on popular online dating sites using stolen photos and personal information. Using email, instant messenger services, and text message, they begin to facilitate a relationship with someone they've met online, and it's usually someone who is so desperate to find love that the warning signs get ignored. Just as things begin to sound like they are getting serious, the scammer requests money or some other favor.
The scammer often claims to have traveled to a foreign country on business and to have fallen into some kind of financial or medical trouble. Sometimes they offer to meet in person and request money for travel. Some scammers look for victims using webcams and ask them to perform sex acts. The videos are then used to blackmail the victims into sending money to avoid release of the videos.
Thousands of men and women are conned by romance scams each year, with the average victim dishing out about $26,000. Most of the victims are over 40 years old. The scam is so prevalent in the military community that the U.S. Army has its own dedicated website aimed at preventing such cons.
Red Flags and Warning Signs
Unrealistic photos and profiles: If the person in the photo looks like a model, you should question whether the person on the other end is the person in the photo. Similarly, if the profile sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Anyone that makes allusions to having great wealth or coming into money should be avoided. You should always have the person send a selfie (quickly) doing a specific action, such as giving a thumbs up or peace sign, to help verify legitimacy.
Inconsistent or unmonitored communications: Vague or repetitive email responses could mean you're dealing with an organized crime ring. Dating websites often have an internal communication system that monitors for scammy behavior. While many online relationships do eventually move to more personal modes of communication, such as phone or email, be wary of anyone that wants to skip straight to getting your personal information.
Asking for money or favors: Generally, it's good practice to avoid giving money to anyone you don't know, especially when you can't verify their story. No matter how well you think you know your online love, this person is still a stranger. Never send money using wire transfer services, such as Western Union, or prepaid debit or gift cards. These are favorites among scammers of all kinds. Once the money is sent, it is impossible to retrieve.