How to Spot Online Dating Scams in 2023
There are plenty of fish in the sea, but unfortunately, some of them are sharks. Online dating has become more popular than ever, but it also presents increased opportunities for online dating scams to arise.
Here’s a fun internet scam statistic for you: In 2019, the Federal Trade Commission reported that over $200 million was lost to romance scams on online dating sites. If you’re not careful, romance scammers may steal your money rather than your heart.
Finding love online can be a wonderful experience, but the prowling romance scammers can also make it a dangerous affair. By learning to spot and avoid online dating scams, you can keep yourself safe from becoming a victim of romance fraud and even save your friends and family from falling prey as well.
How do you know if you’re being scammed in online dating?The scammer will refuse to meet in person or appear on video chat and may use stock-like photos in their profile. They might also profess their love to you early and rush the relationship. Asking for money before you’ve met is the clearest red flag.
What are common online dating scams?Military online dating scams are common, where fraudsters create fake profiles impersonating soldiers. Also, common are intimate activity scams, where scammers ask victims for intimate photos and then use them for blackmail.
How do you report online dating scams?If you’ve suffered from an online dating scam, report it immediately to your local authorities and file a complaint with the FTC and FBI online.
7 Tips to Recognize Online Dating Scams
With a proliferation of online dating apps dedicated to helping people find love, it’s no wonder that so many people are hopping on the bandwagon. Everyone wants to meet new people from all over the world — including someone who could potentially be “The One.”
Before you hop onto these apps, you should be aware of the warning signs and potential red flags. The more prepared you are, the better you can protect yourself from scammers while looking for love.
Keep the following red flags in mind to avoid getting tricked when trying to find your prospective partner on a dating website.
1. If You Never Meet Them in Person
A key red flag is if the person refuses to meet face-to-face, often claiming they live far away and are in the military or working overseas. Every time you get close to meeting up in person, something comes up, and they can’t see you after all.
2. If They Move Your Talks Off the Dating Site
Dating sites — especially the major sites like Match.com, eHarmony, and Tinder — have gotten very good at weeding out scammers. If you’re searching for an online suitor on these sites, it would be wrong to assume they’re all scammers. However, an online dating scammer can still slip through the radar.
Often, scammers will push you to take the conversation off the app or site, insisting on emailing, texting or calling you. This is so their scamming behavior doesn’t trigger alarms on the dating site. If someone wants to go off-site immediately, that should set off some alarms in your head too.
3. If You Can’t Get an Accurate Photo
The first dead giveaway for a scammer is often their profile. They don’t want to put their actual photo online. They have generic profile images or no photos at all. If you can’t see your online love interest and they plan to keep it that way, they may be hiding something.
Before entertaining the idea of an online relationship, always check their online dating AND social media profiles for inconsistencies or clues that suggest a fake profile.
These can include pictures from the same stock photo site or even profiles with photos that seem to be of different people. Also, their profiles might contain addresses from different cities all in the same state as yours so they register as vaguely familiar in your brain.
Have a look at how authentic the photo actually looks. A legitimate social profile often includes photos of the person with their friends or family or doing a hobby. Sometimes the background is shown off, and it’s a full-bodied image. Scam profiles make an effort to be zoomed in to the bust or face level and rarely feature anyone else.
4. If They Never Video Chat
If the person only wants to communicate through email, phone and/or text messages for a long time, your alarm bells should be going off. There’s a difference between being shy and outright refusing to have a video chat.
Romance scammers might finally say “yes” to a video chat, but their webcam will often be conveniently “broken.” This means that you’ll have to rely only on audio to communicate, which would make the scammer more than happy.
This “audio catfish” is an increasingly popular method of communication among scammers who have been caught using stolen photos in the past. It also provides them with an excuse to ask you for money for a new webcam.
5. If They Fall in Love Too Quickly
All good things come to those who wait. Scammers on an online dating site clearly don’t live by this philosophy, as they’ll often be in a rush to get into your pants — and your bank account.
Professing love within a few days or even hours of meeting someone is a red flag in any relationship, especially if you’ve never met in person.
They want to move quickly with the relationship to prey on victims who are head-over-heels in love and less likely to question if it’s a scam. Love can blind people, and scammers are fully aware of this.
By getting the victim excited by “bigger steps” they’re willing to take in the relationship, scammers sink their hooks in that much deeper, making it harder to get rid of them. If you’re experiencing this on social media sites or dating apps, chances are it’s an online dating scam.
6. If Their Life is Extremely Dramatic
It’s not always hard to recognize a scammer, but it can be tough to walk away. They get you hooked by reeling you in with the same techniques that make reality TV shows so addictive: high drama, lots of twists and enthralling cliffhangers.
The best scams are the ones that don’t feel like scams. They’re not asking for money until they’ve already worked on your emotions. They dismantle your skepticism as they suck you into the story being spun on the other end of the computer screen. This keeps your attention and softens you up for when they inevitably ask you for financial help.
7. If They Ask for Money
If you’ve ever been on an online dating site, you’re probably familiar with the perils of meeting someone who seems too good to be true. It’s one thing to meet a cute guy living in Italy who sends you heart-eyed emojis and assures you that he dreams of taking you out on romantic evenings in Paris.
But when they start asking you to wire money to cover the costs of a fake emergency or upcoming trip home, you know you’re encountering one of those online dating site scams.
Romance scammers typically ask for money in a way connected to the relationship, such as needing help paying for the plane ticket or needing to get themselves out of gambling debts, so you can meet in person.
Never go around sending money or giving your personal information or contact details to people you meet on a dating app.
How to Avoid Romance Scams
In the faraway land of e-dating, a handsome person may meet you on a dating site. They’ll be charming and funny, and they’ll listen to your dreams with an intensity that makes you believe they’re the one. Then, they will ask for money for their sick grandmother or your first trip together.
Spoiler alert: They are not real.
Here are some things you can do to protect yourself from falling into scammy, romantic relationships on dating sites.
Do a Reverse Image Search
Do a reverse image online search on Google Images before responding to someone’s dating profile. Searching by image can help you determine if the photos are stolen from another account, a web page on some random site from the 2000s or even stock photography.
To do a reverse image search, head on over to images.google.com and click on the camera icon. You can copy-paste the URL for the image you want to search for or upload it from your computer. Then hit “Search by image.”
Don’t Accept Friend Requests From Strangers
It’s not just dating sites; social media is also a hotbed of romance scams. Scammers prowl social media sites for possible victims, posing as attractive strangers.
Always be wary of who you’re interacting with on a social media site and their possible intentions.
Start Any Relationship With a Video Chat
If you’re thinking about meeting someone in person after talking for only weeks, set up a video chat early as possible. If the other person isn’t willing to or claims not to have the means, that should be your first red flag.
A real person may not have time for a video chat right away but will be willing to at least schedule one for the future. On the other hand, scammers with fake profiles will try to put it off as long as possible.
Never Send Money to Someone You Haven’t Met
No matter how compelling their sob story is, you should never send anyone money for anything unless you have met them in person and know exactly who they are.
If you feel convinced to deposit money in the account of a person who seems attractive and genuine to you, you should brace yourself for more than just a broken heart.
If You Get Suspicious, Ghost Them
Scammers are very good at what they do. Don’t give them a chance to “explain” or emotionally manipulate you. If you’re getting stomach twists instead of butterflies, act on that feeling and cut off communication completely.
Don’t worry about hurting their feelings. They certainly aren’t worried about yours as they plot to steal your money and personal information.
Where Do You Report Romance Scams?
Scammers are getting craftier, and their victims are getting savvier. So where do you report online dating scams? There’s a four-pronged approach you can follow.
If you’ve been victimized by a scammer, contact your local law enforcement authorities and provide them with as much information as possible about the scammer, including emails and transcripts of conversations you may have had with them.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the government agency that regulates internet commerce. Among other things, the FTC protects consumers against fraud. If you’ve been scammed by an online dating site, you can report it to the FTC online.
The FBI is responsible for investigating cybercrimes and international criminal networks, including online dating scams. You can lodge a complaint with the FBI at the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
Conclusion: Avoid Online Dating Scams
Love is in the air, and as the weather heats up, so do the online dating scams. If you’re not careful, these heartbreakers could cost you more than just your tears and some real cash from your bank account.
The truth is, you can’t predict who will run a scam and who won’t. But there are some ways to protect yourself from being scammed. I’ve certainly done my best to know what to look out for when I’m on these sites, and so should you.
Remember that online dating scams aren’t the only thing you should be worried about. Scammers are widening their net. Read the guides on how to avoid NFT scams, email scams and online shopping scams.
Do you have any other tips apart from the ones above? Have you been scammed on a dating site? Share your stories in the comments!
And don’t forget to guard more than just your heart when you’re dreaming of finding love online.
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