Online dating seems to be more popular than ever. Unfortunately, it also provides an opportunity for online cons, in which scammers fool a victim into losing more than just their heart.
According to the Better Business Bureau, it usually goes like this:
The scammer initially works to build an online relationship and gain your trust, often by creating a fake profile (using pictures of real people) on social media or dating sites or apps. After a few days or even weeks of back-and-forth messaging, the scammer begins asking for personal information, or even money. In extreme cases, the crook resorts to extortion and threats if you don’t pay up.
So how do you know if someone is a fraud? The BBB suggests the following Romance Red Flags:
- Pressure to leave the dating site. When a potential partner immediately suggests moving the conversation to text messaging or a personal email account, this could be a red flag. Be alert to anyone expressing instant feelings of love, even though they have very little knowledge of you.
- A sudden change of plans. Take note when an online pal indicates they would like to meet, but then is unexpectedly prevented by a traumatic event or unexpected travel. Scammers frequently pretend to be temporarily working or stationed overseas.
- Requests for money. In some cases, the scammer will claim an emergency like a sick relative or stolen wallet, and will ask you to wire money. The first wire transfer may be small, but you can be sure that the requests will keep coming and will continue to grow. Never wire money to someone you do not know.
- Put safety first. Avoid adding too much personal information on your dating site or social media profile, such as a home address, work information or phone number. Never give personal or financial information to online love interests, as it could be a phishing or identity theft attempt.
- Take time to research individuals. Before the conversation turns serious, it might be a good idea to search your new friend’s name on search engines and social media sites. Copy and paste portions of your emails into search engines to see if the words have been associated with any scams.