Online dating continues to rise. By some estimates, there will be 440 million people in the world seeking love. In 2022, in the US, internet dating generated $2.86 billion. That means the market shows no signs of slowing down. But with the rise of online dating, scammers have found a large population of possible victims.
In 2010, the documentary Catfish and spinoff series followed people who build an online relationship with people they’ve never met in real life. And from there, the term catfishing became popular. Then, in 2022, we had the Netflix documentary The Tinder Swindler.
With the rise of online scams, it is important to learn how to spot a scammer and avoid them.
How do online dating scams work?
Let’s talk first about what romance scams are and how they work. These scams occur when fraudsters create fake profiles and personas. They pretend to have a romantic interest in someone they meet online. And by using manipulation tactics, they create a feeling of mutual trust while aiming to scam the victim. In most cases, they scam people out of money.
These scams can happen on dating applications but also on online forums and social media sites. They can affect anyone, but in most cases, scammers target vulnerable people. They try to make people who are desperate feel special, develop a relationship, and then scam them out of money.
What are some red flags to look out for?
The best way to protect yourself online is to look out for red flags. Once you spot these red flags, you can stop the communication and avoid getting duped. With that in mind, here are the big red signs to look out for.
You cannot verify information
Online scammers often set up fake profiles by using stolen information and photos. So, they have no digital footprint. In simple terms, it means a simple Google search will not give any information about the said person.
You can try either a Google search of the name or a reverse image tool to check whether the photo is authentic.
They are quick to show love
The term is love bombing, and it is a situation when in a short period of time, scammers profess their love and shower you with it.
It is part of their emotional manipulation that aims to create a connection with you. So, keep your eye out for matches that are overly devoted. Nobody proposes marriage early in the communication, right?
Too good to be true
Sometimes, a potential match seems too perfect. That is because it is. When things look too good to be true, that is because they often are.
Scammers will use attractive photos, one without any imperfections. Pay attention to the photos, and ask for a meetup or a video call. That will reveal the scammer’s true identity and face.
Refuse to use video chat
Speaking of video chat, if one refuses to try so, it is a clear sign of a scammer. We live in a world where technology has given us Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, and many other applications that can help people connect using video.
So, when a person refuses one, cease all communication.
Asking for your personal information
Sometimes, scammers want to use reverse psychology and see whether you are “truly devoted and committed to the relationship”.
Scammers are not always on the lookout for money. Sometimes, they need personal information. Stealing your identity is a way to commit account takeover fraud and then use your information or sometimes sensitive photos to blackmail you.
So, never give people personal information or sensitive photos.
Move the conversation off the website or app
At first glance, moving the conversation off the dating website or app is nothing serious. But it can be a way for scammers to gain access to your personal information. That includes email address and phone number.
Ask for financial help
In most cases, this starts like an innocent plea. For example, they have a relative that is going through hard times, a friend, or anything else. But you should stop right there.
And in the past few years, scammers have found a new way to extract money. That is by asking you to invest in sham apps and websites, usually about cryptocurrencies.
How to protect yourself?
Now let’s talk about you can protect yourself. It is one thing to notice a scammer, but it is another thing to protect yourself from one. Staying safe on online dating websites is crucial for a seamless experience.
With that in mind, here are some techniques you can use to prevent a scam.
Do not share personal details
One of the big mistakes people make on online dating sites and apps is sharing too much personal information. Your name, a short one, is more than enough. Why do you need to share your full name, date of birth, or home address with a stranger?
Be careful when picking up a username. A beginner’s mistake is to include personal information in your username, like, “JonfromNewYork”.
Never send out money
You should never send or receive money from anyone you’ve met online. No matter how convincing they might be. Sometimes, scammers might try to send you money and you send them back again.
The more you ask questions, the more you can learn about the person you are communicating with. And every now and then, you can catch their inconsistency in talking. Which is a good sign you are dealing with a scammer, not a real person.
Protect your privacy online
Protecting your data online from hackers and scammers is vital. The thing is, online dating apps do not have the best security measures in place. So it is up to you to add additional layers of security and privacy.
Use only trusted websites
Before you sign up for a dating website, check it on Google first. Do a simple review search. Good and trusted dating websites have some protocols in place so that fraudsters cannot easily create fake profiles and scam people.
With that in mind, use such websites to try and find love online.
When looking for safe dating sites, it’s important to utilize reliable sources to ensure that you are engaging with legitimate and reputable platforms. Make sure to use sources such as online dating review websites, consumer protection agencies and check this list of cheating websites from dating and relationship experts. These sources often provide comprehensive reviews, ratings, and feedback from real users, which can help you gauge the safety and reliability of different dating sites. Conducting thorough research and cross-referencing information from multiple sources can assist you in making informed decisions and selecting dating sites that prioritize user safety and privacy.
Think twice before using a webcam
Usually, video chat is the best way to see whether someone is a fake or a real person. But using a webcam has many downsides as well. For starters, someone might use that video footage to blackmail you later on. The first time you hop on the video call, make sure you are well-dressed and not in provocative clothes.
How to report an online dating scammer?
If you find yourself being a victim of online scamming, you should always report it. Even if you just notice a profile that is a fake one.
You can easily report fake dating profiles to the websites they post on. This helps you, but also other people from getting scammed. The site or application will close down any fraudulent accounts.
And if you get scammed about personal information, contact Action Fraud. As always, you can report romance scams by filing a complaint with the FBI’s internet crime complaint center.
To cap it all, being aware of online dating scams is vital for a positive experience. You should keep your eye out for possible scammers and improve your security as much as you can.
The more secure you are online, the better the experience. And the lower the chance is for someone to steal personal information from you or money.