Dating scams have climbed the ranks as one of the biggest online frauds. 2020, set a record in the U.S. for money lost in these Internet attacks. It’s more common now than ever for you or someone you know to get fooled by nefarious Internet schemes. Due to an increasing number of so-called “catfish” on the Web, it’s important to proceed with caution when it comes to online dating. There are five easy steps to take to protect yourself against scammers.
Today, everything is done over the Internet. Ordering your groceries, buying clothes, and even meeting ‘the one.’ For the most part, this is also a fun and an exciting new way to get yourself into the dating sphere and possibly find romance. But, with so many ways to fake a photo, a name, or intent, how do we know the person we’re talking to online . . . is real?
This is an emerging and rapidly growing problem with social network dating. These fraudsters are faking where, what, and who they are for the opportunity to scam the very people looking for connection. In fact, many of the scammers are probably psychopaths or sociopaths.
Most of these scams prey on lonely and unsuspecting victims. Such schemes are often launched using a technique for hoodwinking people that’s become rather well-known today – catfishing.
Krustal D’Costa, writing in Scientific American, says catfishing “refers to a person who is intentionally deceptive when creating a social media profile, often with the goal of making a romantic connection. This deception can be elaborate and may involve the use of fake photos, fake biographies, and sometimes fictitious supporting networks as well.”
Money requests and other types of scams involving financial and personal information are the biggest forms of online dating fraud. This is where the person you’re talking to, or have interest in, starts asking for money or payments, with the promise that the relationship will continue and flourish. These people very rarely end up meeting with you once they’ve got your money. And, when they figure they’ve taken all the cash they can, they stop communication altogether.
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How Big Is the Problem?
According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, 2020 set a record high number for romance scams, reaching up to $304 million in money lost.
“For an individual, that meant a median dollar loss of $2,500,” Emma Fletcher of the FTC stated.
Although we have mostly been reporting on statistics in the U.S., these scams happen all around the world.
Some might attribute a lot of these schemes to the COVID-19 pandemic and the inability we’ve had to meet up in person, thus validating excuses for scammers to continue online conversations without having to promise real in-person interaction.
Whether you’re lonely, bored, or just plain horny, it’s easy to fall into a trap over the Web. Here are some ways to look out for and avoid getting your heart broken – and your bank account drained.
5 Ways to Avoid Romance Frauds
1. Verify the person . . . is a real person.
If the person you’re connected to – whether via phone, text, or email – is only presenting their “Internet persona,” meaning no video chatting or any proof of reality, you need to nail this down. There are many different ways to verify if someone is using a real identity or not: You can reverse image search for photos, check that the name matches the pictures, as well as location, email address, etc.
2. Don’t rush anything.
If someone wants a future with you or is interested in you in the least, there will be no reason for them to jump into immediate commitment without the steps it takes you to establish a bond of trust. Relationships take time to develop. You need to talk with one another, establish mutual respect, and gradually share personal details. If your online interest immediately proclaims love and affection, watch out! It’s probably fake.
3. Ask questions.
Asking someone questions about themselves, especially those whom you’ve never met, is not far out of the realm of possibility. If someone is interested in a relationship with you, asking them questions about their life and, at the same time, wanting to be sure their legitimacy won’t create problems. Real people looking for a genuine connection will want to get to know you – and for you to know them. But scammers will often become defensive, angry, refuse to give any answers altogether, or won’t provide much detail.
4. Meet the person . . . in person!
This should go without saying, but you might be amazed by how many people skip this obvious step before doing something foolish. If the person you’re connecting with online refuses to meet up in person, or continuously finds excuses to cancel or say why they can’t, then they’re probably trying to scam you.
5. Never send money!
Scammers can be incredibly smooth and persuasive. They need money for a plane ticket, they’re in debt, they can’t afford their Internet and phone plan but want so badly to keep talking with you. Don't fall for it! Don’t give them a dime – even if it’s for their pet turtle’s funeral.
If You Mess Up, What Then?
If you’ve fallen for the tricks and think you’ve sent money to a scammer, it’s not the end of the world. And there might be ways to get help.
First, always report it! Contact your bank immediately if you think a scammer might have your money. You might be able to get some of it back, or at least file a claim.
You also can file a complaint with the online dating site or platform that you met on and get the fraudster suspended or banned from the site or at least get an investigation going. If needed, you can also contact the FTC or even the FBI.
Online dating should be exciting and fun. You might meet people you can connect with in a deeper and more genuine way. You could even find romance. But following these steps will help you keep yourself and your money safe in the Wild West of the Internet.
Title image: Dating Fraud Scam by user Mohamed_hassan from Pixabay.