Online Dating Scams: What You Should Know To Avoid Becoming A Victim

These days, technology makes EVERYTHING easier – getting in touch with people, buying movie tickets, booking a vacation, watching television, getting a college degree… and even dating. I’ve heard it from people my age and people much older, dating nowadays is just not easy. With the trend of social media never going away and the invention of a new dating app everywhere you turn, people have come to rely on the Internet to help them find their perfect match. If you meet that special someone in person, you are considered lucky, and finding your soulmate via cyberspace is no longer an odd concept.

But, as with anything on the Internet, it’s important to be careful when connecting with other people online. Online dating scams have become a significant problem in recent years. In 2015 alone, victims of these scams experienced a total loss of $203 million. When all is said and done, the “relationship” costs you a lot more than just a broken heart.

Here’s what happens.

Whether you swipe away on Tinder, would rather pay for Match.com or eHarmony, buzz around on Bumble, cast your heart on Plenty of Fish, look for love on Christian Mingle, or use any other dating site or app out there, scammers are ready for you, they’re smart and they know just how to make you fall for them.

Your “love interest” begins communicating with you over the website or app, and things seem to be going great. You really hit it off. After a couple of days or weeks, he or she requests to take the conversation to a more private place like text, email or instant message. You continue to get to know one another, both of you divulging personal stories and really opening up. Rather soon, the “I love yous” come in to play. You continue on with the budding romance in hopes that it will turn into something great.

All of a sudden, something drastic happens – a medical emergency, a sudden need to travel across the world, getting stuck in an airport on their way to see you, or some sort of financial burden – and he or she needs money, and fast.

The scammer asks for money and says he or she will pay you back, sometimes claiming double what you “lent”. He or she asks for your online banking login credentials, logs in and deposits money into your account via external transfer from another institution or with a counterfeit check through Remote Check Deposit. Once the money is deposited, you are directed to send it to him or her in a way that can’t be tracked such as MoneyGram, Western Union or Wal-Mart Money Transfer. Of course, the ACH debits and check are returned to your credit union or bank as unpaid, but only after the scammer has your money. Unfortunately, you are now responsible for covering the money lost plus any fees.

The scammer may also ask for credit card information. In addition to money, he or she may also ask you to send them gifts, like high-end electronics, or ask you to forward packages somewhere (which are of course stolen).

These fraudsters are typically operating from a foreign country, even though their profiles say they are close to you. They might claim they are from America but are traveling or stationed overseas. They steal and use pictures from other people’s profiles and claim them as their own.

So, what should you look out for?

Now, this isn’t to say you shouldn’t pursue love through whatever avenues you please, but you should certainly keep this information in the front of your mind at all times. Don’t be fooled by a charming personality and an intriguing back story. The person behind the keyboard is not always who you think they are.

There are some tell-tale signs you are being fraudulently swindled by a scammer and not genuinely romanced by a potential partner. Here are a few of them.

“Can I get your number, email address, anything besides access to your inbox on this site?”

Scammers do not want anyone to blow their cover and that includes the website itself. It’s easy to report a fake person on a website or app; you just simply click the Report button. But, it’s not as easy to do that through text or email. If after talking on the website or app for only a few hours or days and the person requests to talk through a more private means, be cautious. Be especially cautious if after only a few weeks of talking they profess their undying love for you. It is possible that a person might actually want to talk to you in a more personal way like through text or email because he or she is genuinely interested, but if any of the rest of these examples follow, it’s probably good to disconnect completely.

“I bought a plane ticket to come see you!” … day of visit… “Sorry, I broke my back and all the bones in my face. I don’t think I am going to make this trip.”

If you make arrangements to meet in person multiple times, but something always seem to get in the way, be very wary. If you haven’t met your Internet sweetheart after a few months, you have every reason to be suspicious. People want to spend time with those they love with no excuses. Period.

“I was recovering so well from my back and face injuries, but I suddenly need medical attention immediately.  I’m in another country and I don’t have access to my money from here. Can you pleeeasseeee send me some?”

And there it is. The moment of truth. Is it realistic to assume that you can trust someone enough to give them thousands of dollars but can’t trust the fact that they will keep their word and actually visit you? As much as you want to believe that this person could be the one you love, it’s not worth losing your money over. These scammers are very smart and know how to tug at the emotions of innocent people. Love, and even the idea of finding it, makes people vulnerable and they know that. Don’t be tricked by this kind of crime. Protect your heart and your wallet.

A little trick

If you have been talking to someone on one of the dating sites or apps, but are a little suspicious of their authenticity, use Google’s Search By Image to search their profile pictures and see if they come up anywhere else. What’s more obvious than fake pictures? If they send you any other pictures, do the same. For example, they claim their family member is in the hospital and they need help paying for the expenses, they may send you a picture of someone in the hospital. Ask Google for proof of its validity.

Common sense can also be your best tool. Sometimes, your heart speaks louder than your brain and you can’t really hear the logical thoughts in your head. Never give money, your personal information, your financial information or any personal log in credentials to ANYONE you do not know personally. You can mend a broken heart with time and surrounding yourself with good people, but it will take a lot more than that to fix the significant financial loss you will suffer from if you fall victim to one of these scams.

If you suspect that you are the victim of an online dating scam, report your case to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

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