Disclaimer: The below is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.
Recently, online dating turned to financial disaster for several women in the Midwest when they were duped by the same man. One woman in Ohio contacted local police when she was tricked into sending thousands of dollars to a man she met online. Another woman in Indiana was targeted by the same man, it seems, on OurTime, an online dating website for older single men and women.
While one woman only lost $1,000 to this man who claimed to be a German citizen working in Dubai, the other secured a $30,000 loan to send. The people who operate OurTime didn’t comment on the vetting process for those who create profiles on the website.
As technology becomes more a part of our daily lives, scamming stories like the one above and catfishing have become more prevalent. Catfishing is when a person claims to be someone they’re not, often using false biographical details and photos they’ve found online of someone else. While catfish aren’t always looking to scam their victims out of money, it’s one of the most common motivations.
Why Do Some People Become Victims Of Dating Scams?
There are some common traits among those who have become victims of online scams. Although the women in the news story above who were targets of a scam were a bit older, most scam victims fall in the middle age range, from 35 to 54 years old. Many victims are female, but men can be tricked, too.
Dating scam victims are typically impulsive and too quick to trust others. If you have an addictive personality, you might be more likely to fall for a scam, as well. Additionally, those who don’t have many friends might be targeted for scams.
How To Protect Yourself
While it can seem as though the internet is a scary place, there’s plenty you can do to protect yourself. First, don’t be too quick to trust someone you’ve just met online. Even if you think they’re trustworthy, kind, and attractive, it could be that you’ve come across a fake profile and a person posing as someone else.
Before you put too much trust in anyone, get their full name. Then you can run a background check to ensure the person you’re meeting is really who they claim. A quick public records search will let you know whether the person is living where they say they are, and you can carefully test (or at a minimum, monitor) the person on the information you have on them, such as their phone number or address.
Most importantly, you should never give sensitive information or wire money to someone you don’t know well and for a long period of time. If you think you’ve come across a scammer, report them to the website you’re using and stop communication with them. And don’t feel ashamed if you’ve been targeted: It’s not about you personally, and it happens all the time. Just make sure you don’t become a scammer’s next victim.