Scammed on the Road to LoveOctober 15, 2018
What is the price of love? Well, if you fall victim to an online dating scam, the price could be your life savings plus a heaping dose of disappointment and humiliation. According to the FBI, confidence frauds and romance scams ensnare more than 15,000 Americans a year, swindling them out of more than $210 million. When searching for romance online, knowing how to spot Mr. or Ms. Wrong is just as important as finding “the one.”
Scammers lurk on dating sites because their members tend to be hopeful and sometimes lonely. Many are also older, more trusting, and less Internet-savvy. (The Wall Street Journal notes that dating services aimed at baby boomers are expected to grow over the next five years.) People share personal details on dating sites—their passions, beliefs, and life experiences. So, it’s easy for a scammer to set up a fake profile, scan a potential victim’s profile, and then present themselves as that person’s dream match. You’re from Ohio? Hey, they are, too. Recently widowed or separated? Into golf, church activities, or long walks on the beach? Check, check, and check.
The online romance develops and then comes the “sting.” They’re working overseas and need money to get home. They just found out they have cancer and need money for medical treatment. They need money to finalize a divorce, and then you can finally be together. It all sounds implausible as you read it here, but scammers are good, and they take their time building trust with their victims.
Here are some warning signs to look out for, whether dating online or just striking up a relationship through a social media site:
- They’re too serious about the relationship, too soon, or too complimentary about you.
- Their subscription is running out and they want to shift correspondence to email or phone. (Scammers can’t linger on dating sites because the sites now use analytics to find and stop them.)
- They work overseas in the military or as a contractor. (Scammers posing as military personnel are so common that the U.S. Army now has a division devoted to stopping them.)
- Poor spelling or grammar, indicating that English may not be the person’s first language.
- They desperately want to meet you, but there’s always some reason they can’t.
Even if you think your new love interest is legit, take these precautions:
- Do some online searching and see if their details about schools, jobs, etc., add up. You can even use reverse Google image search to see if they’ve stolen their profile picture from someone else’s website.
- Never share personal details or pictures that could be used against you, either for identity theft or coercion.
- Never give money or anything else to someone you haven’t met in person.
If you suspect someone is trying to scam you or think you’ve been scammed, cut off communications immediately and report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. The road to love can be rocky, but with proper precautions, at least you can avoid getting mugged on the way.