Watch out for these tell-tale warning signs when you’re on an online dating site.
By Lianne Byrne
If you’re dating online, the chances of having your heart broken are increasing.
The COVID-19 pandemic has cut us off from natural face-to-face contact and has created artificial isolation.
Along with its mental health pitfalls, it has led many people to seek connection (and love) online. Scammers know this and are cashing in.
Whoever you think you’re talking to online could be talking to many others like you.
It’s a conveyor belt of deception, with scammers stealing photos from legitimate profiles, chatting to their victims, and trying to keep their stories straight.
According to a report by UK Finance, cat-fishing fraud by people using fake online profiles increased by more than 20% in 2020. In South Africa, online scammers have cost victims around R134-million.
This figure may be higher, as victims of these scams are often too ashamed to report them.
In these cases, love really does hurt. Here are 10 warning signs to watch out for in the online dating game.
They don’t have a digital footprint
Check for a full ‘digital footprint’, an online identity built up over years. It’s even more preferable that you have friends in common.
What you see in ‘real-life’ must correlate with what they’re telling you during your chats.
Be especially wary of Facebook friend requests from people with profiles just a few hours old.
Use reverse image search services such as Google Images or TinEye to check whether their profile photos are fake.
They want to move the chat to WhatsApp, email, or messenger
Fraudsters want to quickly switch to social media, texting, or email so there’s no evidence of them asking you for money.
Only switch over if you’ve been able to verify their identity thoroughly.
They’re based in another country
What is the possibility of having a real relationship with someone you’re not able to meet?
Scammers may attempt to lure their victims overseas, putting them in dangerous situations that can have tragic consequences.
They’re employed in unlikely professions
Look out for professions like engineers on oil rigs, deployed, active-duty soldiers in the US military, or operations managers at large aid organisations operating in Africa or the Middle East.
They fall in love with you too quickly
Scammers will profess their love quickly saying they’ve formed a special unique bond with you that they’ve never felt before with anyone else.
It might feel deeply authentic and flattering, and soon they start talking about wanting to marry you, describing an incredible future life with you to keep you hooked. This is a huge red flag.
They ask you for money
Scammers lay the groundwork for their scams and build up your expectations over days, weeks, or even months. Then they ask you for money. This is guaranteed.
It will be an emergency or some sort of drama they’re involved in, like paying off their gambling debts, or an emergency operation for their child.
This will usually be in the form of international funds transfer, pre-loaded gift cards, or cryptocurrency.
They want to send you money
Be aware when they offer to send you money too. They will then ask you to wire this money to another person on their behalf.
Do not accept any deposits into your bank account at all. This is a form of money laundering, and you could be committing a crime.
They want intimate pictures of you
Scammers are known to blackmail their targets using compromising and intimate photos and videos.
They ask for your personal details
Avoid giving away too many personal details, such as bank account numbers and social media logins, especially to someone you’ve never met face-to-face.
You’re scared to tell your friends and family about them
Are you able to talk to a trusted friend or family member about this new relationship? If not, why?
If you can talk to someone you trust about your new online relationship, pay attention to their reaction and if they express concern.
What to do if you’ve been scammed
Collect all of the details surrounding the scam, emails, or messages you received, and then screenshot and save all correspondence before it gets deleted.
Go to your nearest police station and report it to the Finance Intelligence Centre or Crimeline.
Call your bank immediately if you have provided your account details to a scammer. Change your passwords on your online banking profile.
Update your antivirus software and report the scam to the dating site where the scammer first approached you.
Let them know the scammer’s profile name and any other details that may help to stop others from being scammed.
Never feel ashamed or stupid if you have been scammed. Remember to trust your gut, and talk to others about your experiences.
- This article first appeared on the Change Exchange, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes. The opinions expressed in this piece are the writer’s own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BrightRock.
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