Being single and social distancing can leave you a lot of hours to kill—alone. Why not try to find love online during a lockdown? Statistics show an estimated 2.6 billion people are doing just that, sending more messages via online dating apps than before the pandemic, likely in an effort to feel more connected.
If you’re more like Jerry Seinfeld, and ‘going out and doing stuff’ was annoying pre-pandemic, here’s a quick refresh on how the other half lives. According to Statista, the most popular dating app before the pandemic was Tinder. Bumble came in second. Half of your fellow Americans have met or know someone who has?met a romantic partner via a dating website or app. Before social distancing, 77 % of adult online users reported having gone on a date with someone they had met online.
Flirting With Danger
This is no ordinary time, which is one reason scams are surfacing around the globe. First, “the bump in online dating numbers has exposed new forms of pathology, deviance and crime,” write Italian researchers in a May, 2020 article titled, Online romance scams: A modern form of fraud. Second, a separate U.K. survey breaks down the trends and also paints an unfortunate picture. Although the research was done pre-pandemic, being in any kind of vulnerable state during a crisis can make people easy targets.
All For Love of Money
The numbers may surprise some of you: One in five (21%) reported that they have either been asked or have given money to someone they met online, according to U.K. Finance, which used a polling company that reached 2011 Brits. The number of scams (in the U.K.) rose 64% year compared to the same period the year before. And £7.9 million was lost to romance scams in the U.K. in the first half of 2019, an increase of 50% over the previous year.
Scammers build a deep emotional bond with the aim of extorting economic resources in a manipulative dynamic.” If you are quarantined, it’s easy to see how easy it would be to toy with someone’s emotions by appearing to be ‘taking it slowly’. The fictitious Internet profiler waits 6-8 months, building a deep emotional bond to extort economic resources in a manipulative dynamic, researchers explain. The Italian findings, which synthesized 12 studies from around the world, focused on the psychological characteristics of the target and the relationship dynamic the scammer creates.
Sharing Tragic Stories
Look out for three key storylines used by scammers. When Italian researchers broke down the data and they found that:
· the contact began speaking about the relationship as being permanent within a short time. The scammer uses words like ‘we have something eternal,’ and often makes a marriage proposal.
· the scammer often relays a series of tragic events in their biography, such as loss of a loved one and accident or losing a job.
· over time, the scammer asked for money to provide treatment for an illness or accident.
Knowing this, you can make an effort to avoid these scenarios and report a ‘match’ that you feel has crossed a line that makes you uncomfortable.
For Love of Company
If you can’t resist online dating, it’s probably a good idea to find out how other people manage their virtual relationships. Do a reality check with a friend or family before you get too deeply involved. And never send money to someone you haven’t met. If that just scared the fun out of things, there’s always Dating Diaries: Quarantine Confessions, a new podcast that “unpacks the complexities and experiences of dating during the COVID-19 pandemic.” If you like reality shows, this is the kind of podcast that might be for you. I personally am rooting for an episode of Reply All on pandemic online dating scams. Reply All, describes itself as a podcast about the internet but it’s often an hour’s worth of revenge and entertainment in one. You can also watch the Seinfeld special over and over again to fill the hours. It’s part of the new normal.