When you’re falling in love and your emotions are running high, it’s easy to miss some red flags in a dating partner. That’s why romance scams are the most costly form of online fraud, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Since 2015, dating-related fraud loss has quadrupled from $33 million to $143 million. Scammers use others’ vulnerability and loneliness to their own advantage, targeting individuals who are trusting and easily attached. If this sounds like you, you might want to tread carefully.
Common Traits of Online Dating Scam Victims
While possessing these common traits do not automatically mean you’ll fall for an online dating scam, it may make you more susceptible if a scammer tries to target you:
- Impulsive. If you often find yourself acting before fully thinking a situation through, you might be more willing to give into scammers without even realizing it.
- Overly trusting. While being trusting isn’t a bad trait, you may not want to put complete faith in someone you’ve never physically met, or have only spoken to for a few weeks (joys of reckless abandon notwithstanding).
- Addictive personality. Some people grow attached to others quickly. If you’re this type of person, you may want to be extra self-aware when connecting with new partners — especially online.
- Middle-aged. While the exact reason is unclear, most victims of online dating scams are middle-aged, though that could simply be laws of averages and correlation not causation.
- Female. Women tend to be more vulnerable to romantic scams. However, men can fall for a scam, too, so don’t assume you’re in the clear simply because you’re male.
Avoiding An Online Dating Scam
Regardless of whether you fit the description of the “typical” online dating scam victim, consider following these tips to reduce your risk of falling for a fraudster.
Meet the person first.
When online dating, insist on meeting in-person so that you can better assess matters (and before risking forming too strong of an emotional attachment prematurely). For your safety, it’s best to have your first date in a public place and to let a trusted friend or family member know where you’ll be.
Don’t believe their excuses.
Be extra careful if your suitor has reason to be out of the country to avoid a first meeting. International business people and members of the armed services make easy cover stories for scam artists.
Don’t send money.
Never send money to an online dating partner early on in a relationship, particularly if you’ve never met in person. A request for money, especially one accompanied by a “sob story” about a sick relative or other desperate financial situation, is often the sign of a scam.
Listen to your gut.
If your intuition tells you something is off, check the person out by running a background check. This can potentially provide you with information about addresses, aliases, criminal incidents and known associates. All you need is a full name and approximate location to run a search.
Regardless of whether there’s a risk of scam, always be careful when using a dating app or website to form romantic connections.Search a person's history and background check