Scam artists are commonplace on the Internet, and unfortunately, sometimes even more so on dating websites where people are more open and trusting; as would be expected from a network that promises to match people up with their one true love. There are so many cases of honest individuals getting cheated off their hard earned money from some scammer in Russia or Nigeria that we have been able to put together a telling list of things to look out for when trying to identify a potential scammer.
We have begun to embrace the Internet as a legitimate way of meeting people. There are hundreds of sites that offer us a variety of networks that we can join to find our perfect mate, from the most general to the increasingly niche sites that cater to specific wants and needs. As the Internet makes it increasingly convenient and efficient for us to find dates, it also unfortunately exposes us to a variety of negative characters that may potentially be lurking behind that seemingly perfect individual. Hiding behind pixels and millions of miles of optic fibers, how much can we really ever know about that stranger from the Internet?
Privacy has become a huge concern with the advent of social networking in recent years. While people become more comfortable navigating their way through dozens of web pages every single day, it sometimes slips our minds how careful we should be about protecting our personal information. A little trust and naivety can easily lead to identity theft and/or credit card scams without so much as a second glance.
Online dating proves no different. Except this time, the scam artists are appealing to your emotions. Powering on the knowledge that all the people on these sites are opening their hearts to find someone they can trust and eventually love, scam artists have trained themselves to seduce people with their words and pleas for help. Given the rise of such cases, we find it crucial to put out the word and inform everyone about the potential dangers of online dating if one is not careful.
Here are some basic red flags that you should look out for:
Scammers will usually steal pictures off the Internet to use in their profiles. Knowing that the most attractive people will get the most hits, they usually steal pictures of models to pass off as their own. Be wary when a scantily clad, 6' blonde-haired blue-eyed girl from Australia gets in touch. ‘She’ may very well turn out to be a chubby, balding fourty year-old man living in Nigeria. Unfortunately, there is such thing as "too good to be true".
The language that one uses in his or her messages is one of the clearest red flags of a scammer. Sentences and paragraphs will appear be whole and fully formed, but jarring spelling errors and grammatical mistakes will be commonplace.
Scammers will likely tell you that they live close to you, or at least in the state. However, they somehow manage to find themselves in some suspect location in Africa or South America doing missionary or voluntary work. At some point they will be likely to bring up the fact that they cannot make it home because of some reason or another, and will need your assistance to get them back home.
Requests for money or other valuables
The single common thing that ties all scammers together is the desire to get their hands on your hard earned money. Realizing this is essential to being able to stay safe online. No matter how well you think you know someone, you should never ever send money, credit details or other assets to someone you have only spoken to online. Unless you have met them and built up confidence with them in person, you have no way to know that you aren’t really talking to someone from another country.
Online dating scams are slowly becoming more sophisticated, as scammers become more careful about disguising who they really are and what they really want. As a result, some of the above red flags may not be as obvious as they once were. Conversation is cleverly crafted to seduce you, and make you emotionally vulnerable to their stories and, eventually, pitfalls. Here are ten of the most common tricks and tales these scammers will try to spin on you:
- The men are distinguished and successful, and the women are lingerie or swimsuit models.
- They start calling you dear/honey/sweetheart within the first few messages.
- They are a “messenger of God”.
- They insist that they have fallen deeply in love with you after the first few emails.
- While they might agree to Instant Messaging, chances are they will pick odd hours of the night for time zones they are meant to be in.
- If you ask them about the place they are from, it is unlikely that they will be able to answer intelligently – as one could, if he/she has spent a few decades of his/her life there.
- They keep casually mentioning how bad the economy is, and how life wherever they are is getting too difficult to bear.
- They ask questions about your assets and credit card limit.
- They are in the midst of traveling, and have been a victim of lost luggage, mugging or even kidnapping.
- Their family and friends are either dead or uncontactable, and you are the only person in the universe who can help them.
Of course, these are merely guidelines, based on our observations from the hundreds and thousands of cases that have passed through our radar. While this is being written, some dishonest scam artist in Russia or Nigeria may very well be writing another convincing script to con some poor soul whose only fault was feeling a little lonely. The story might change and their methods of communication may differ. However, we do urge you all to be wary of anyone – not just within the online dating world – that asks you for any of your personal details at all, be it a bank account number or simply a mailing address.
All that said, while we encourage you to be vigilant in exercising caution, and wary of those who seem ‘too good to be true’, we do remind you that there are genuine, honest people on these sites just waiting to be found -- more so than the afore-mentioned scam artists. Be aware, and keep your heart open. Best of luck!