As online dating has gone from niche to mainstream, scams targeting online daters are exploding, with more and more people using the Internet to prey upon the unsuspecting to make them fall in love and then steal their money.
British newspaper The Guardian recently called dating scams “the most costly in existence” and reported that in Australia there have already been 43 people this year who have lost more than $100,000 each in related scams.
Con artists spend time and effort to perfect their scams, which can make it difficult for the average person to determine whether a new online romantic interest is the real thing or simply a scam.
Here are some simple steps that you can take to protect yourself from a fraud.
Step 1: Scrutinize their profile.
Keeping in mind that many people manage their profiles in such a way as to only present the best about themselves to potential dates, look at what you can see about them and honestly assess whether it looks too good to be true. Conversely, profiles with minimal or vague information should also serve as a red flag. Is the text the work of a unique and down-to-earth individual, or are the phrases cookie cutter? Does the person seem to be in a rush to find a partner?
Step 2: Check out their pictures.
First, are there pictures? In this day and age, it is safe to assume that someone who isn’t willing to share pictures and is trying to do online dating is likely hiding something. Second, are the pictures all of the same person? One thing that con artists do is make profiles from pictures that they have found that seem similar, but upon closer inspection, are actually of different people! Third, where else can you find the pictures? Google has a feature that allows you to search for other locations of pictures online. Is that person’s picture an image used in multiple, seemingly unrelated websites? Or can you trace the picture back to a legitimate social media profile?
Step 3: Consider a background check.
Is there a person matching that description? Using a company like BeenVerified for a background check, you can find out if there is a person with that name and that age living where the person claims to live. While it is possible for an adult to have no public record footprint, it is rare, and the lack of a verifiable identity is a huge warning sign that you may be on the verge of being scammed, or at least have caught a catfish.
The most important point of all: never send money to someone you haven’t yet met in person. Most online dating scams rely on building an emotional connection with the victim and getting money sent through services like PayPal or through other means online
Have you had any experience with online dating sketchiness? How did it turn out? Let us know in the comments.