Unfortunately, the popularity of online dating has attracted scammers who prey on the hopes of people who are looking for love. Most of them want to cheat someone out of money. Others are cruel pranksters who just want to make fun of someone. Scammers create fake profiles on dating sites or on social media, and then start looking for victims.
Enjoy your online experience, and protect yourself from scammers by being cautious. Here are some warning signs to look out for.
- The profile picture is gorgeous, like a model in a magazine. Sure, a super-attractive person might have used a professional photographer for a profile picture. But most people don't look like models, and most use selfies or pictures taken by friends. No matter what this person looks like, it's worth checking. You can save the picture on your computer and then use Google to do a reverse image search.
- Their dating profile is strange or inconsistent. Maybe they spelled the name of their home town wrong, or claim to have gone to a school that doesn't exist. Maybe they say they live near you, but the details they provide are all from a different place. They give facts that are contradictory, or make claims that just aren't possible.
- They ask for financial information, such as whether you own your own home, what kind of income you have, etc.
- This person claims to be much younger than you are. Yes, some people don't care about age, and some are attracted to older partners. But most people are looking for someone close to their own age. Be especially skeptical if you are a woman being contacted by a younger man. Men rarely seek women who are more than a few years older than themselves.
- They aren't available to meet. Scammers typically claim to live near you, but say they are working at a job that requires overseas travel. They may use other excuses, such as being out of town to help a sick relative. They may make plans to meet you, but then cancel because of an emergency.
- They have poor language skills. Although they claim to be from your country, their grammar and spelling suggest that they do not really speak the language. Yes, native speakers make spelling mistakes and may not have perfect grammar. But some kinds of errors are usually giveaways that someone is not a native speaker and may be using a dictionary or translating software. Look for repetitive sentences, problems with he/she pronouns, problems with plurals, inconsistent spelling, wrong word order, words and phrases that seem nonsensical, and ways of saying things that just don't sound normal.
- They want you to leave the dating site and correspond with personal email or instant messaging. This is a step you should not take until a genuine relationship has been established.
- They claim to have feelings of "love" much too soon. Maybe they feel you are soulmates who were destined to meet. Yes, you are attractive and charming. But this person doesn't really know you. Beware.
- You ask for new pictures, but somehow they never manage to send any.
- You want to Skype with them, but there is always something wrong with their camera or computer.
- You agree to a phone call, but something prevents them from getting to the phone. Or you do talk to them, but they sound strange. A man sounds like a woman, or a woman sounds like a man. They whisper. Maybe they claim to have a sore throat. The person speaks in a very artificial way, as if using a script. They don't seem to remember your online conversations. You hear odd sounds in the background, as if other people are present. You feel as though the conversation is being recorded.
- They want to exchange sexy or nude photos or videos. Never, ever, ever do this! Scammers use compromising pictures to blackmail their victims. All too often, images are uploaded to websites for the purpose of humiliating the victim. Just don't do it.
- Sooner or later, they ask for money. They may have spent weeks or months softening you up, perhaps sending you gifts and flowers to make themselves seem sincere. When the request for money comes, it may seem reasonable. Something bad happened while they were overseas. Their wallet and passport were stolen, and they need money to buy a ticket home. They are finally ready to meet you, but there is some reason they are short of cash and need you to pay for the trip. A family member has had a terrible medical emergency, and they need help with the hospital bill. It's just a small loan until their big business deal pays off. They have a great investment opportunity, and they want to share it with you. And so on. This is the moment when you know, without any doubt, this is a scam.
When you detect an online dating scam, stop all contact with the scammer immediately. Report the problem to the dating site, and include evidence, such as the websites where you found the fake pictures. Then take a deep breath and move on. There are good people out there, and you will find them.