In this digital age where everything is done online, it’s no surprise that more and more people have turned to dating apps and social media sites in the hopes of finding romance. However, more often than not, everything is not the same in real life as it seems online. Those who look for love online may be prepared to kiss a few frogs before finding their ideal partner, but they may not be prepared to be financially scammed by people with malicious intent.
How Do Online Dating Scams Work?
Unfortunately, this form of cybercrime has become a lot more prevalent as of late. A recent Netflix hit, “The Tinder Swindler”, shone some light on how romance scammers work. Con artists create fake profiles online and connect with unsuspecting victims. They then seemingly build a relationship with them before asking for “help”. Oftentimes the victims of such scams don’t even realize what’s going on until it is too late.
But Shimon Hayut, the alleged scammer that the Netflix series was based on, is not the only predator out there. In fact, the Better Business Bureau reports that victims in the US and Canada have lost over $1 billion to online romance scam artists, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says that losses from online dating scams spiked 80% in 2021 when compared to 2020. Perhaps the pandemic made it easier as people had no choice but to meet others online. Nevertheless, those who look for love online remain easy targets as they tend to be vulnerable and open to trusting strangers.
All of this isn’t to say that one cannot genuinely find love through the internet. However, one must be extremely cautious when meeting people through the internet. Judgments can get clouded when matters of the heart are involved, so it is important to be aware of the warning signs that clearly indicate that the person on the other end of that chat isn’t exactly genuine.
Here are the top 6 ways to identify if you or someone you love has been targeted by a dating scammer:
They Ask for Your Personal Contact Details Right Away
Exchanging phone numbers or email with someone you’ve met through a dating app or website before you’ve met them isn’t uncommon, but it is best to err on the side of caution. One of the ways that scam artists target online daters is by asking them to move off the site and on to personal forms of communication. However, once a scammer has your phone number or email address, they can find out a lot of personal information about you.
To make sure you are protected, you can set up a separate email address that doesn’t include your last name or other personal information specifically for the purpose of online dating. You can set up instant messaging through the secondary email or even use an app that generates a different phone number, such as Google Voice.
They Have Generic Photos
If your potential Tinder match’s profile seems very generic, this is a big red flag. They may also have nothing in their bio or, again, something very generic. Anyone can steal someone else’s photo, or even download them off of stock sites, and make themselves out to be someone they’re not. Online dating scammers tend to use single photos in their profiles, especially of someone very attractive dressed in uniform (doctor’s coat, fireman’s uniform, military fatigues, etc.) or scantily clad.
They Make Claims of Being Incredibly Rich
Online dating scammers make claims of being incredibly rich, planting the seeds that they couldn’t possibly be talking to you to gain anything financially. The Tinder Swindler himself claimed to be the “Prince of Diamonds”, the alleged son of LLD Diamonds owner Lev Leviev.
However, the realistic chances of finding a billionaire on Tinder or Bumble are slim to none, and it’s unlikely that anyone with such a big fortune would need to turn to dating sites to find potential matches. If someone is seemingly showing off massive amounts of wealth on a dating site, be aware. Just remember that anyone can make wild claims about being successful on the internet!
They Put Off Meeting in Person
If you’ve been talking to someone online for weeks or months and they still can’t meet you in person, it’s time to take a step back. They may constantly come up with excuses for why they can’t set a meeting or why they have to cancel last minute. They may claim they are not in the country, unable to leave a sick loved one, or even that they are in the army.
Sometimes, this may even be accompanied by a request for a small loan, maybe claiming they cannot meet due to a financial obligation or because they cannot afford the ticket. This is an even bigger red flag!
They Seem to Move Too Fast
Another thing that romance scammers do is move very fast. They may profess their love or talk about the future in a very short amount of time or even before meeting you in person. It can feel heady to know that someone feels such a connection with you, which makes it easier for them to manipulate you.
Real relationships take time to build, and so does trust. If it seems that someone is moving too quickly, be very cautious – especially if they follow it up by making unscrupulous requests such as access to personal information of money transfers.
They Ask You for Money
Despite claiming to be insanely rich, online dating scammers go straight to asking you for money. They always claim they are in a pickle and will pay you back as soon as possible. They may claim they have had a medical emergency, have been stranded in a foreign land, or even that their life is in danger or someone is after them. As romance scam artists tend to “woo” their victims with a quick and intense connection, logic may not always come into play, making it much easier to fall prey to such tactics.
Under no circumstances should you send someone whom you haven’t met or only recently met large amounts of money. Do not send them bank transfers, cash, gift cards, or crypto, and certainly NEVER divulge privileged information such as your bank logins or credit card details!