Online dating allows people to meet others with similar backgrounds, goals, and interests. Sadly, romance scammers abound, making it difficult for those interested in finding a real, true relationship.
Over the past decade, online dating has become very popular in the United States. In a recent survey, 1-in-3 Americans say they use one or more dating site to try and find their true love.
Online dating’s major draw is also its biggest flaw: you don’t know the true identity of the person on the other side of the conversation. Romance scams are among the most common form of internet fraud with the most losses reported. In 2015, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported a loss of over $33 million. In the past five years, the number has skyrocketed to a jaw-dropping $201 million lost to online dating scams. It’s not only internet fraud that you need to think about, but there is also the chance of physical harm. Dating app crime is a very real thing.
Reported statistics have changed dramatically in the past five years. The following shows a snapshot of the people using online dating sites.
32% of men reported using dating sites while 28% of women have used the sites or apps.
There is no reportable difference among races.
Percentages of people that have used online dating sites:
- 48% of adults 18 to 29 years-old
- 38% of adults ages 30 to 49
- 16% of adults 50 and older
- 28% of adults identifying as heterosexual
- 55% of adults identifying lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB)
- 54% of Americans believe that developing online relationships is just as successful as face-to-face introductions, 38% believe the relationships are less successful, and 5% state the relationships are more successful than ones started “in real life” (IRL).
Regardless of age, gender or sexual orientation it’s important to take certain precautions when setting up your online profile and meeting people in person. When setting up your profile there are a few tips to follow:
Most dating sites require that you use an email to sign up. It’s a good idea to create a separate email that you use specifically for dating. Not only will this help keep you organized, but it will separate new contacts from your personal and work email accounts. If anything goes wrong and you no longer want to talk to the person it’s easy to close the email account.
Some other dating sites, like Tinder, use Facebook to create a profile. You can create a separate Facebook profile, but that can be a lot of work. We suggest checking your Facebook privacy settings before you start. It’s a good idea to make information like your email, place of work, family members, and so on, visible to only friends or only yourself. Facebook settings can easily be changed so you can decide at any time what information you do and do not want to share.
When setting up your username and profile with the dating site or app, don’t provide extremely personal information. Don’t use your full name as your username. In the About section, focus on talking about your interests, what you’re looking for, and what makes you special.
When your profile is set up you’ll likely start receiving and exchanging messages with other singles. It’s key to take it slow in online dating. Talk via the dating site or app before giving your email or phone number to a person, and only do this once you feel comfortable with them. It’s also a good idea to search the person’s profile pictures via Google or other reverse image search site. Doing this will show you if the photo of the person you’re speaking with appears on any other sites. If the photo appears on many other sites or comes up under different names the person may be hiding his true identity.
Reverse searching an image on Google is easy. If you are using Google Chrome as your browser, right-click the image and select “Search Google for this Image”. This will open Google’s search results for the image in a separate tab.
- Save the photo to your desktop
- Go to images.google.com
- Click and drag the photo that is saved to your desktop to the search bar on Google Images
- Google will show you if the image appears on any other sites and any similar images that it findsIf by doing this you become suspicious and suspect the person you are chatting to is not who they say they are, trust your instincts. Sometimes people will steal photos of other real people to create fake profiles.
There are several other red flags to watch out for when starting a conversation with someone via a dating site or app. With Tinder, there are sometimes malware spammer bots. They usually target men, but women can also be targets. If you’ve met someone on Tinder who responds very quickly and seems like they aren’t listening to what you’re saying, chances are they could be a bot. A major red flag with these bots is if they send you a strange link and ask you to click it. DON’T CLICK IT! This link could put malware on your device and allow scammers to access your information.
Aside from robot scammers, there are also human scammers lurking on dating sites. Warning signs include the following:
- The person you are chatting with immediately asks you to talk with them privately via personal email or some other messaging service outside of the dating site or app.
- The person quickly expresses their love or appreciation of you within a few days or weeks of first chatting.
- The person is unable to meet you in person because they are traveling abroad or live far away, then when you make plans to meet up something always happens to prevent the date.
- They ask you for money or to cash a check for them.
- Many times online dating scammers will pose as if they are in trouble and need your financial help to get them out of a difficult situation. Before helping someone you meet online, you should ask yourself if the person you are talking with has shown any of the red flags mentioned above.
If you feel that someone is trying to scam you it’s best to report them to the dating site that you met them on, and file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website.
Sometimes people might be lying about their identity not to scam you out of your money, but for other reasons. Indeed, some people are dishonest about their relationship status, while others might have a criminal past that they are hiding.
Online dating allows people to meet others with similar backgrounds, goals, and interests. Sadly, romance scammers abound, making it difficult for those interested in finding a real, true relationship. Online daters should enjoy the excitement of meeting someone new while being aware of the dangers. Scam artists make promises they will never keep to commit identity theft or steal money from their victims. Never give out personal information such as bank account or credit card numbers. Don’t buy gift cards or send money through a wire transfer. If someone acts suspiciously, cut off communication, and move onto the next person who will, hopefully, be the real deal.