For most of us, being single is not easy. When people go online to look for love, we are not only opening our hearts but also opening ourselves up to potential trouble. Dating sites and apps are full of online dating scams or romance scams conducted by unscrupulous characters lurking to take advantage of our vulnerability.
Here are some worrisome numbers. According to the FTC, in 2018 people lost in excess of $143 million dollars to romance scams. Remember, that’s only the amount that’s reported, I’m sure it’s way higher than that. Many people don’t even report these scams due to the shame associated with admitting that they were taken advantage of.
The scams are as elaborate as you can imagine and are designed for a single purpose, to pull on your heartstrings and get you to wire them money. The most telling sign that you are dealing with a scammer is that they ask for money. The excuses are elaborate and endless and range from money for their sick mother’s hospital bill, an emergency, to their car broke down and they can’t get to work.
They often lie and say that they are in the military, traveling for business, that they work on an oil rig, are working with an international aid or medical organization or anything that helps justify to yourself the situation.
Here are some tips that will help you avoid being taken for a ride and not on the Love Boat:
Verify that the photo in the profile is real
How do you do that? Google has a sneaky little function called “image search”. Instead of typing a question, you start with a picture and Google will show you what it thinks matches for that picture are.
Since these profiles are fake, they have most likely stolen the picture from another dating profile of a real person, from social media or even stock photography.
First, save a copy of the profile image from the love interest. You can right-click on the photo and save it with most browsers or take a screenshot and crop it so only the picture shows.
Once you have the picture, go to images.google.com. It looks just like the regular Google search engine page but you’ll notice that it has a little camera icon right on the search box.
Click on the camera and it will give you two options, paste an image URL or upload an image. Upload the image you saved and click on Search by Image.
Scroll down the page and it will give you visually similar images and if you keep scrolling it will show you pages that include matching images. Go through these links carefully and you’ll realize right away if this is a real person or a fake profile.
If it’s a fake profile, you’ll see social media accounts and other pages with the same picture but under a different name. If this is the case, stop contact with the scammer immediately. Don’t give them a chance to explain it away. You may be vulnerable and these people are experts, that’s all they do, they have talked to hundreds if not thousands of people and know exactly what to say for you to drop your defenses and justify to yourself that they are real.
In my experience and with cases that I know of, it’s best to simply just stop all communications, even if they turn around and start threatening you.
Don’t forget to report it to the FTC. They have set up a site where you can report this type of scam.
Don’t give out too much information on your dating profile
Never share any personal info that could be used to easily identify you such as your full name, address, phone number or other social media profiles. Never tell people where you work, where you went to school or any other info that could be used to identify you.
Don’t hop platforms
You met on match.com and the person immediately asks you to start a Skype conversation or talk through Whatsapp or any other messaging app, including text messages. Don’t do it until you can figure out if this person is real.
It’s a jungle out there so be careful when you create an online profile so you are opening just your heart and not your wallet.
Learn more with this cool infographic created by the ABA foundation