In Cyber Safety

Knowing How to Spot an Online Dating Scam

online dating scam

Dating online is becoming one of the most popular methods of making new friends and even finding long-lasting relationships. When you want to date online, implementing a few online dating profile tips is essential to keep yourself protection from a potential online dating scam. Preventing potential scams online can be done with the right amount of tweaking to your profile and an understanding of how to spot a potential scam when you begin posting your own dating profiles publicly. The more you understand about various scams and how they can negatively impact and affect your life, the easier it is to turn individuals away who begin asking from you prior to truly dating and getting to know one another.

What is an Online Dating Scam?

Dating scams online vary based on the types of messages you receive and what the scammer or potential thief is after. Types of online dating scams include:

  • Catfish scams: An individual poses as another person when chatting and dating online, giving you the impression they are someone else throughout the entirety of your virtual relationship. Most people involved in catfish scams do not want to meet in person or find multiple excuses as to why they are unable to meet up with you over time; leading to suspicion. Many online catfish scams involve individuals who are struggling with emotional issues of their own and are unable to create a profile with their true identity for a number of reasons; ranging from self-esteem and body issues to past issues in relationships they may have experienced.
  • Romance and Money Scams: These scams include people who build relationships with others using online dating profiles to get to know you while wooing you virtually and even over-the-phone. Once you have fallen for the individual due to their smooth tactics and ability to get to know you on a “deeper” level, they may begin to ask for money and wire transfers. Your new love interest may tell you they have been arrested, in a car accident, or that they have just lost their job to get you to help them financially. Once you are unable to provide any more money to the individuals, they often delete their profiles and disappear from the online world altogether; creating new identities to look for potential victims.
  • Foreign Scams: There are many individuals from various parts of the world who partake in scams to help with getting financial assistance and a place to live in their desired country. Individuals from other countries who are interested in moving to a new country or those who are seeking financial gain may begin to woo you immediately when online; via instant message or email. They may offer you many things: clothing, attention, love, shopping, riches, everything that sounds desirable and nearly unattainable all at once. Once you get to know the individual you are talking with, they may begin to ask to move to your country with you, seeking residence to help them gain access to your location and the country you belong in. Additionally, these individuals may begin to ask for financial support to help them get to you or to help you meet them. They will often create elaborate lies that go undetectable to help build your trust with them while empathizing with them for any situation they find themselves in.
  • Nigerian Scams and Wire Scams: Although Nigerian and wire scams are most commonly sent in the form of email, it is possible you may receive them when you are using an online dating profile with any community or type of dating site you are interested in. If your receive a message regarding a large inheritance or a large sum of money that is available that must be wired, you are more than likely being scammed. Many Nigerian scammers and wire scammers request that you use your bank account information to wire the money, promising to give you a percentage of hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, depending on how large the “inheritance” is they are promoting.

Some of the major signs of any online dating scam includes:

  • Asking for money after only chatting with for your a little while. Most often, users who ask for money in any dating situation online may only be using you to get the financial gain they are seeking.
  • Making up multiple excuses to not meet up in person. Many excuses may seem dramatic and intense, ranging from hospital visits, landing in jail, being falsely accused of a crime, and even losing their home or full-time job. It is important to stray from lending money to those you do not know well enough in-person.
  • Avoiding phone calls and giving out phone numbers directly.
  • If you are unable to find any information about the individual you are speaking with to verify their identity online, you may be involved in a potential scam. Although this is not always the case, it is imperative to research any person you begin chatting with and may date in the future prior to meeting up with them.
  • When an individual you are chatting with in an online dating community begins to tell you they “love you” or that you are “the one” shortly after you begin chatting, following up by asking for help or for financial assistance.

Online Dating Profile Tips to Keep Scammers Away

  • Avoid posting personal information on your dating profile. Keep your last name, address, phone number, and other information regarding your whereabouts and identity from anywhere public when posting in an online dating community. The more personal information you post online, the easier it is to begin connecting with an individual who is manipulating you to potentially scam you in the future.
  • Do not answer users who harass you or those who offer you money immediately. Keeping away from these users altogether will force them to move on and stop bothering you altogether.
  • Be sure to avoid uploading photos that give away your home location or any additional personal information about yourself. Do not upload photos of your home address, your last name, phone number, place of work, or other addresses nearby if you have your city posted publicly with your online dating profile.
  • Turn your profile’s visibility off when you are not interested in dating to keep scammers and potential thieves from finding you within search engines if you are not checking your messages at the time. Scammers often lurk and send multiple messages to users when online in attempt to bait as many individuals as possible into the scam for financial gain.
  • Keep your personal website URLs, blogs, and social media accounts separate from your online dating profile–as these lead directly to additional personal information about yourself. Do not share your workplace or personal websites even if you believe they do not share information about you directly, as it is possible for scammers to find the identity of website owners and more information about workplace employees online.

Reporting an Online Scam in a Dating Community:

  • Any time you believe you are being scammed or that you are talking to a user that is using you for financial gain or for potential access to your location, it is important to report the individual immediately to the website’s administration and staff. Sending a report ticket, searching for a “contact” button, and sending a message directly to staff in the community can help you to report a user.
  • Additionally, many websites including “report” buttons integrated into users’ profiles and when sending messages to immediately report spam and potential scammers. Using the “report” button is the quickest method to report a user that is abusing the site’s policy or that is using you directly. You can often include specific details of your case and request to share more information at a later time to prompt a follow-up message from a staff member of the community.
  • If you are being threatened or harassed after you have been scammed and are unable to give more, it is essential to contact authorities immediately and to report the cyber crime you are dealing with directly to the FBI. Be sure to save screenshots and any messages you have received from the user to help with your case and tracking the scammer online. If the individual is scamming you, it is more than likely they have scammed others in the past and are planning to do so again in the future.

Understanding how to spot a scam when you begin to date online is a way for you to ensure you are protecting yourself and your identity any time you begin to get to know someone new online. Although using an online dating community is a great way to meet new people, make friends and find true love, it is important to stay safe and protected at all times until you feel genuinely comfortable with getting to know and share more with the other individual you are connecting with online.

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