April 14, 2014

How to Avoid Online Dating Scams.

L'Amour love important cherish

 “Love is the most important to cherish.”

It may seem unlikely that one would be caught in an online dating scam but it does happen to millions of people. Even those who are careful can find themselves falling in love with a virtual lover.

Dating and finding a new relationship is difficult at best. Add the component of our fast paced world and internet access. The opportunities are mind boggling.

It is necessary to take extra caution because what is portrayed online as genuine can actually be fictitious.

The profile and pictures created can be false.

The fallout from such betrayal is heartbreaking.

Scam artists are manipulative, cunning, clever and flattering. What they do to people doesn’t cause them guilt or remorse. They enjoy the process and feel a sense of mastery and satisfaction which leads them to repeat the cycle.

The scam artist can prey on anyone: intelligent, sensitive, kind or generous but often focus on the heartbroken, raw and vulnerable.

“These criminals—who also troll social media sites and chat rooms in search of romantic victims—usually claim to be Americans traveling or working abroad. In reality, they often live overseas. Their most common targets are women over 40 who are divorced, widowed, and/or disabled, but every age group and demographic is at risk.” ~ Federal Bureau of Investigation.

A scammer begins with establishing confidence with an initial exchange of passionate emails. There’s a synergy of magic but it is an illusion. The primary goal of the perpetrator is to win the trust of a vulnerable heart and to get their money.

This may take days, weeks or months.

Regardless of the length of time, the scammer is stealing and furthermore stepping on a heart. There isn’t an ounce of compassion, guilty or remorse for what they do.

How does one avoid becoming prey to an online dating scam? Here’s a list of potential red flags to help distinguish a con artist.

  • A romantic virtual love develops almost instantly.
  • Wants to give a pet name. Let me call you sweetheart.  By doing this the scammer doesn’t need to always remember a name. He or she can be working several people simultaneously and calling them all sweetheart.
  • The routine is similar. There is a tragic story of a former significant other who died or left them. Additionally they may emphasis their struggle as a single parent with a child. It is dramatic and aimed to befriend and create empathy.
  • They will refuse to video Skype, Face Time or initially meet in-person and promising a later date to meet.
  • Frequently the scam artist has a specific scheduled time to talk and often at odd times.
  • May claim to be a US citizen but works or travels frequently overseas.
  • Reports traveling to exotic places and having an intriguing occupation.
  • Flattery in the form of beautiful messages and poetry.
  • When finally setting up a time to meet, there will be a postponement in their schedule. This will lead to a story about a delayed flight or perhaps lost luggage.
  • Another tactic is to say they lost their cellphone and/or laptop and will ask for a replacement.
  • If it hasn’t happened yet, there will be a request for money to pay for a hospital bill, other monetary emergency or a financial setback. They may even request money to pay for their airfare to come and see you. All with an added insurance of, “Sweetheart, I’ll pay you back as soon as we meet.”  Which of course never happens.

How to protect yourself:

  1. Set up a new email account used only for online dating.
  2. Only use a cellphone for interacting. It’s a bit hard to track down where you live.
  3. Schedule a Skype video call to see the person.
  4. When scheduling a date meet in a public place. Let a friend know where you are going and what time you plan on returning home.
  5. Limit the amount of personal information shared. Time will tell if they are sincere (or not) so take time.
  6. Avoid giving personal information such as home phone number or address, date of birth, high school, university, etc. These personal tidbits can assist in someone finding out more about you. This is their job to investigate and to gain your trust.
  7. Avoid sharing any financial information. It’s more than okay to be private.

I do believe in romance and love as someone once wrote, “Love doesn’t need to be perfect; it just needs to be true.”

I also recognize we can’t be constantly paranoid. Yet it wise to listen to our intuition, heart and knowledge.

“Knowing when to walk away, is Wisdom. Being able to, is Courage. Walking away with Grace, and your held head high, is Dignity.” ~ Ritu Ghatourey.


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Editor: Renée Picard

Image: sophiea at Flickr 

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