Dating isn’t all flowers and fancy dinners, unfortunately.
Studies show that as many as 15 percent of all American adults currently use online dating sites, mobile apps, or social media to find love or meet people.
That means that 15 percent of all American adults can be easily targeted by online dating scam artists if they don’t use a modicum of caution and arm themselves with the following tips and tricks for spotting fake profiles and avoiding online dating scams.
The FTC reported that in 2018, romance scams garnered more than $143 million dollars! Are you a member of an online dating service? Knowledge is power!
Read on to find out how to spot a fake profile, what scamming techniques to watch out for, what to do when you suspect a profile is fake, and the most common online dating scams.
Scam artists are getting very good at creating appealing fake online dating profiles and then stringing along would-be suitors, gaining their trust, and ultimately exploiting that trust to con them out of hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Here are 5 expert tips for how to spot and avoid fake online dating scams before you fall prey to them:
1. Learn how to spot a fake profile.
A bogus online dating profile will show someone attractive and successful (sometimes they will claim to be a celebrity or even royalty). That’s the whole point: To capture your interest initially, then gain your trust and reel you in.
But be realistic — is the person “out of your league?” You know what that means. If you’re not sure then take advantage of a profile photo-analysis tool. Most of us are average-looking people who will attract other average-looking people.
Be wary if someone way hotter than you seems interested in you.
Also, watch out for inconsistencies, such as a birthdate that doesn’t correspond to the apparent age of the person in the photo, or if they forget previous conversations you’ve had. Maybe they get some material facts from their profile wrong.
All of this would indicate that the person is a dating scammer.
Be suspicious of profiles that give very little detail and that only have one picture. Scammers are creating fake profiles with computer-generated avatars or photos from magazines, and so only have one image of that person.
Along the same lines, be realistic about the person reaching out to contact you. You have to ask yourself, if you were out with your friends, would you be comfortable approaching and talking to the person whose photo shows up in that online dating profile?
If the answer is ”no,” then you have your answer. Frequently scammers trap unsuspecting individuals by posing as someone “too good to be true” or a “real supermodel” so they think that they have really lucked out.
2. Pay attention to how available they are.
Be suspicious also of someone to purports to be traveling abroad for work and can never meet in person. This is all too common among scammers. They may say they are in the military or Doctors Without Borders.
They always have a reason why they can’t meet in person, yet they’re so happy to hear from you and try to develop a “virtual” romance in order to trick you.
If you ask to meet with someone multiple times and they always have an excuse, its time to move on.
Try to practice the “3-2-1 rule.” You have three online conversations with someone who interests you. Then ask for their number and have two phone conversations with them. Finally, ask to meet for coffee for a short 30 minutes to see if there is any chemistry.
If during this process the person doesn’t want to talk on the phone or meet, then it’s time to move on and find someone else.
Not everyone trying to scam you is interested in money. Sometimes, people try to get you to date them even though they know they’re not in your “league” or the type of person you’ve indicated you’re interested in.
Another benefit of the “3-2-1 rule” is that it can quickly weed out the people trying to convince you to date them even though they’re the wrong person.
3. Be aware of common online dating scamming techniques.
A scammer will want to take the discussion off the dating site and correspond via private email, texting, or instant messaging in order to keep your correspondence private and under the radar of the dating site or law enforcement.
A scammer will usually start corresponding with you as a real possible date would, by exchanging basic information like their line of work, hobbies, etc. However, things will escalate unusually quickly — the scammer will quickly “fall in love” with you and say your meeting them was fate.
A scammer will request your full name, address, or banking information way too soon in your relationship. Be cautious. Refrain from sharing sensitive personal or financial information too soon.
To spring the trap, a scammer will ask you to send or wire money to him or her, or to deposit a check then send a portion back as these are often bad checks that bounce, leaving you having to repay the amount deposited to the bank.
Be wary of any mention of money in the first weeks or months of your correspondence online.
Here are common techniques scammers will use:
- Money requests: “I was in a car accident and need surgery but have no money…”
- Money laundering: “I’m sending you some money. Could you deposit it and send a postal money order to…”
- Cashback from a deposited check: “I’m sending you $3,000 for my half of the cruise…” then a day or two later, “I need $1,000 back temporarily for an emergency car repair, can you wire that to me please?” and the check they sent you bounces.
- Blackmailing someone with incriminating photos or videos
- Identity theft and fraudulent credit accounts and purchases
4. Take steps to protect yourself when you suspect a fake profile.
There are a multitude of ways to check up on someone’s online profile and confirm that they’re a real person looking for a date.
You can perform an image search of the profile pic to see if used elsewhere online (Google or TinEye).
Google their profile name to see if there are other profiles using that name, or if anyone has reported a scam using that name.
Either cease communication or be very cautious. Don’t give out personal or financial details, send money, or send any incriminating photos or videos of yourself as scammers are known to blackmail people.
5. Keep your own profile from looking like a fake.
You’re paying for a membership on that online dating site for a reason, right? Potential matches have the same concerns you do and want to avoid being scammed.
Here’s how to make sure your account looks legitimate and real so you don’t scare potential mates away:
Fill out your profile completely, but at the same time preserve your privacy as much as possible. Create a username or a nickname and disclose that you live in a certain state or county or metropolitan region rather than your exact town.
Create a separate email address just for your online dating profile.
Make sure to disclose whatever is most unusual or interesting about yourself, and be prepared to back it up with more specifics should someone contact you. For example, post a picture of you scuba diving and be prepared to talk about where you’ve traveled to dive.
Change your primary profile picture every week. This shows the site that you’re an active member. Complete your profile by adding additional pictures of you doing things you love in your portfolio. Dating profiles with only one photo are routinely flagged as spam or a scam.
Be active at least a few times a week. An inactive profile tends to get the attention of the online dating site and might result in your profile not being displayed often.
6. Know what you should do if you’ve been scammed online.
Cease all contact with the scammer
Keep a record and copies of all communications
Change all of your online passwords
Check your credit report for fraud
If your privacy was compromised and your identity was stolen, put a fraud alert on your credit report
Freeze your credit
Report the scammer’s fake profile to the online dating site
Contact your financial institution(s)
File a local police report
Contact your state’s consumer protection agency
Contact the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center
Report the scam to the FTC
Hopefully, you’ve been able to avoid being scammed by online dating scammers. But if you have been scammed through online dating or social media, take the steps outlined above and employ these techniques to avoid being scammed ever again.
Online dating can be fun and exciting. You just need to follow some basic protection and common sense to avoid a romance scam.
Claire Bahn is an online branding expert who wants to help with your personal brand on everything from dating profiles to LinkedIn. For more information on how she can improve your online presence, visit her website here.
This article was originally published at Online Profile Pros. Reprinted with permission from the author.