One of the most popular ways to meet people is to go online and sign up at a dating website. You can connect on paid sites, such as eHarmony and Match.com, or free sites such as POF (Plenty of Fish), and OKCupid.
However, just as with everything online, you have to be careful about what you reveal online.
According to FBI statistics, scams involving online dating surpassed 150,000 in 2016 alone, all which led to a loss of around $230 million. However, those amounts are probably higher. Most online daters do not report scams – about one in every four cases is ever reported.
This article will underscore the most common online dating scams and what type of people are usually targeted and why. It will also give you telltale signs about scamming and offer tips to prevent from getting conned. You will also learn how to report online dating scams.
Three Common Types of Online Dating Scams
Naturally, anyone you meet who suddenly needs money should be suspected. Below are three types of online dating scams to watch.
1. I Need Money to Get Back to the States!
This scam is a common and popular ploy of dating scammers online. Usually, the scammer says he or she is from a western country, such as Canada, the UK, or the US. He or she gets to know you for several months to build your trust and confidence.
Suddenly, one day—out of the blue—he or she needs money to get back to the US, UK, or Canada. For example, he or she may state that they have been in an accident in another country, and need money to get back home.
If you fall for this scam, don’t expect to see your money again. Also, you probably will feel both confused and broken-hearted.
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You have been conned, and the con-artist has used your desire for love and companionship to do it. Beware of anyone who suddenly needs money who you meet at a dating site online.
2. The Visa Dating Scam Game
Here is one scam usually used on unsuspecting men. This ploy is often initiated by Russian or Filipino women.
The woman tells the man that she wants to meet him, but does not have the money needed to pay for a plane ticket or visa. She may even send a copy of a plane ticket to support her story.
A last-minute dilemma leads the scam-artist to ask for a sizable sum of money so she can take that long and expensive journey. This scammer usually knows immigration rules backwards and forwards, so she can make her money request sound concrete and believable.
3. The Medical Emergency
This online dating scam is usually conceived by a man, typically African-based, who pretends to live in the West. He may say he needs a surgery that he is unable to afford.
He may even illicit the help of another party – someone who convinces you that he or she is a doctor, and that your online love interest has just been involved in a serious mishap.
The “doctor” asks for money so he or she can begin the needed medical treatment. In some cases, you may hear about certain medical complications – all which, of course, require that you send more money.
Who are the Usual Victims of Online Dating Scams?
As you might guess, the people who are commonly scammed feel lonely or vulnerable. Therefore, scamsters frequently like to target men or women who are 50 years old or older. The victim may have experienced a negative event within the past couple years.
The Scamming Process
Imposters like to present fake profiles on dating sites to track and find their victims. Once the victim meets his or her criteria, the scamster starts building a friendly rapport, making the person believe that he or she wants to eventually get married.
Usually, an imposter does not care if he or she scams someone who is well-to-do or victimizes someone who does not have much money.
However, with that being said, research also suggests that victims of online dating scams often own a successful business or may be engaged in a professional career.
They tend to be more susceptible to scamming, as they are more easily persuaded to help the scammer or offer support. Many of the targeted victims have been either abused or mistreated in a prior relationship.
Looking Out for the 10 Warning Signs that Signal an Online Dating Scam
Be extra, extra careful if you note that the person you wish to know better online is behaving as follows:
- Asks you to send him or her money, regardless of the reason.
- Sshe states that they are from your country but contacts you from another locale. Watch out for someone who uses poor grammar or linguistics when expressing themself.
- Will not meet you in person or follow up with a phone conversation, even when their profile shows they live close by.
- Comes on extra strong, almost immediately pushing you to develop a deeply romantic relationship.
- Asks for contact details as soon as you meet.
Additional Reg Flags
- Does not keep pace with your conversation, and often responds with messages that do not make sense.
- Offers you a great deal on a service or a unique job opportunity – this is done so that they can obtain your personal information or details.
- Asks more questions about your life and avoids answering personal questions about their life.
- Insists that you continue your conversation by another medium – such as email or the phone. Because dating sites can track members who may be possible scammers, the scammer usually prefers to correspond or communicate away from the site.
- Acts as though they have a good deal of money. That way, you will trust them if they get involved in an emergency and need a quick loan. Naturally, you will think they can easily pay you back.
How to Deal with a Possible Scam or Scam Issue
You should act immediately if you feel you were scammed on an online dating site. Maybe, you feel that you are currently being scammed. If so, do the following:
- Stop all communication with the person you believe is scamming you. Speak to the authorities.
- Resist temptation and keep a clear head. When you meet someone online, it can be easy to get carried away and share some of your interests, and even money.
- Verify the person’s identity, using media, such as Skype and the phone. Even if the person is in the military, he or she has access to this type of communication. If you meet a “US soldier” who needs help with cashing checks or asks for anything that can be provided by the military, you probably are communicating with a scam artist – don’t walk but run away!
- If you have sent money through Western Union (WU), immediately cancel the payment. Most of the online dating scams that ask for money usually choose WU as the preferred mode of payment.
One Warning to Heed
Once a scammer discovers his or her prey and is successful at stealing the victim’s money, the victim is referred to other scammer, and placed on a “do call” list. If you have been robbed, don’t’ answer any emails or chats from strangers. Short-list your choices geographically. You will be removed from the “do call” list once the scammers realize you will not respond to their game.
How to Report Online Dating Scams
Today, you can help police by reporting fraudsters of online dating scams. To make a report and complaint, you need to do the following:
1. Make a Report to the Dating Site. Tell the administration at the dating site about the scammer. The site can then remove the scammer’s profile.
2. File a Police Report. Once you contact the police, they will want to obtain additional information. Make sure you have the evidence to show that the other party tried to scam you or had scammed you. Evidence may include chats, emails, texts, or other forms of communication that showed the scammer requested money.
While you may not get your money back, you may still get the imposter arrested. Many of the imposters hail from Nigeria. Therefore, the police often can illicit help from other police agencies internationally.
If you are from the US, you need to contact the Internet Crime Complaint Centre if you were a victim of an online dating scam. UK citizens should call their local police while Canadians need to visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre online. Australians should check out their country’s Cybercrime Online Reporting Network. Victims living in other countries need to check with their area’s cybercrime office.
How 5 of the Online Dating Sites Deal with Scammers
Below are some of the online dating sites and their policies for handling scammers. Choosing a site may be based on their support and recommendations along these lines.
Match offers customer service assistance via its chat line Monday through Friday – 8 am to 5pm Central Standard Time (CST). The site can also be contacted by email. In addition, the Match.cm features a dating safety page, which details how to report any suspicions and keep your information private.
Reporting Suspicious Behavior
One of the most helpful suggestions comes in the form of reporting suspicious behavior. Match.com says to stay alert to anyone who does any of the following:
- Asks for donations or money
- Sends offensive messages
- Threatens or harasses you
- Reveals inappropriate behavior after meeting you in person
- Solicits you with products or services
- Provides a fraudulent profile
The dating service suggests that you choose a strong password, being very careful about logging in at a shared or public computer. Remember that a dating site, such as Match, will never send you an email requesting your username or password. If you receive this type of information, you need to report it immediately.
If you have problems with scamming on this site, you can reach Zoosk by phone at 888-939-6675 or contact the site via email at email@example.com. The site also features a page that provides ways to identify scammers and have their profiles removed.
This site provides personnel who dedicate their time to tracking fraudsters. They review each photo and profile before they upload it on the site. They also write blog posts to keep members informed and alerted to scamming.
This site promotes security, as it does all the searching and matching for its members. Therefore, scammers are less prone to sign up on the site. Because they have less control, they tend to stay away from this popular dating platform.
This site, which is for the over-50 single, attracts almost 9 million visits monthly. Because over-50-year-olds have more concerns about scamming, the site provides an extensive tips section to keep its members safe.
Some of the OurTime Safety Tips
For example, some online safety tips include the following:
- Never send money or share financial data. The site implores users not to send money, particularly by wire transfer, even if the other party states a financial emergency. Also, never share details that could be used to access your financial account. Any request for money should be reported to the administrators on the site.
- Protect your personal information. Never share personal details, such as your work address, home address, or social security number. You should also not share information about your daily routine.
- Remain on the platform while communicating. Any communication should stay on the OurTime platform, and not veer away from the site. Scammers often try to shift a conversation to text messaging, email, or the phone.
- Be on guard of a long-distance or overseas relationship. Scammers will often claim to be from your country, and ask for financial aid to return home. You should be wary of anyone who does not agree to talk on the phone or on a video call, or does not want to meet in person.
- Always report suspicious behavior. Immediately block anyone who violates the terms of the online dating site.
The site also requests users to check out its community guidelines.
Email, Social Media, and Telephone Scams
While romance or online dating scams frequently take place on online dating websites, they may also take place through email or social media. In some cases, scammers telephone victims – a scam that is referred to as catfishing.
How Online Dating Site Scammers Work – A Recap
On a dating site, the scammer usually lures its victim by producing a fake online profile. He or she may use a fictional name or use the identity of a professional or military person working overseas. Normally, the scammer will express strong feelings for the victim in a short period of time.
Moving Communications to Another Venue
Often imposters suggest that you move the relationship away from the online dating site to a more private venue, such as email, instant messaging, or the phone. Many scammers claim to live in a western country but travel or work overseas.
Gaining the Victim’s Trust
A scammer will go to great efforts to gain the victim’s trust. This is done by showering the victim with loving phrases, sharing personal details, and sending gifts. Once the scammer gains the victim’s trust, he or she will directly or subtly request bank and credit card information or ask for gifts or money. He or she may also ask that the victim send videos or pictures, some of which are intimate in nature.
As noted, most scammers will ask for money, due to a personal emergency. Either he or she or a family member may need immediate medical care. The scammer may also wish to visit you, but cannot afford the travel expenses.
A Criminal Coverup
In some cases, a scammer will send a valuable item, such as a computer or mobile phone, and ask that the item be resent to another location. This tactic is done to cover up a criminal activity. In some instances, the scammer may ask you to receive money into your bank account before transferring it to someone else.
Beware of Anyone Requesting a Money Transfer!
If you are asked to make any of the mentioned transfers, beware! These activities are associated with money laundering, which is a criminal offense. Never, under any circumstances, agree to make transfers of money for another party.
Sometimes, scammers will tell their victims that they need to transfer a large amount of gold or money, and offer you a share of the proceeds. They tell you that they need cash from you to cover taxes or other fees.
A Loss that Usually Cannot be Recovered
Regardless of the technique used, it can lead to a great loss of money. Usually, the money taken by scammers is almost impossible to recover. Always be on the lookout for anyone who takes the relationship to the next level too fast or asks for money. If the person refuses to meet you or speak to you by video or phone, you should also make a fast exit, and report the person to the dating website.
One Final Note and Warning
While dating can be exciting and receiving love and attention flattering, you still have to learn to spot those people who are less than sincere. Take heed of the above warnings and always read the safety pages on online dating sites.
You can meet the man or woman of your dreams. Just make sure that you don’t fall into a situation that feels a little too good to be true. Online dating scams rob people of lots of money each year and hurt them emotionally. Protect your money and your feelings – look out for scamsters when using online dating sites.