Five Ways to Protect Yourself from Online Dating Scams

  Image courtesy of Angela Sevin via Flickr

Image courtesy of Angela Sevin via Flickr

Spring is almost upon us, which means many people are starting to think about the possibility of new romantic prospects. With current dating sites and apps providing an alternative way to meet suitable singles, there are plenty of opportunities to meet someone new. But all that glitters is not gold; although online dating seems like a foolproof way to meet someone new, there are some risks involved. Online dating scams (or catfishing) are a growing potential threat, targeting every age group and demographic. The scam works like this: the victim is contacted online by the scammer, who expresses romantic interest. Already having looked at their online dating profile, the scammer may set up their profile so that it caters to the victim's idea of a perfect match. He or she seems legitimate, and the victim and scammer chat until they form a connection. The scammer may send gifts and pamper the victim with attention, but then soon start to ask for money or make an excuse to not meet in person.


APPEARANCES CAN BE DECEIVING

Scammers often use fake photos of themselves, which they obtain by browsing strangers’ profiles and downloading attractive photos. Make sure that the photos you have of your online love interest are actually them. Professional photos that look like something from a Glamour Shot session are a red flag. Ask him/her for several photos of himself/herself to secure their identity; you can then do a Google Image search with these photos to see if they’re online elsewhere. Also, make sure that their physical description matches up with the photos they provide. Are their physical descriptions proportional? Do they say they are six feet tall and weigh 125 pounds, but look shorter and heavier in photos? If you have serious doubts, ask to talk over Skype or Facetime. If they are reluctant or refuse, walk away.


SOCIAL MEDIA

Look up your love interest on various social media platforms for an account and up-to-date profile. At this point, if someone doesn’t have a Facebook page but are sophisticated enough to create an in-depth online dating profile, there may be an issue. If they have a Facebook page, make sure it is not a fake one. Signs of a fake Facebook profile includes a recently created Facebook page (or one that was started near the same time that a dating profile elsewhere was established), few posted photos, no people tagged in their photos to show a connection in a relationship or no friends at all. If they are on Twitter, read through historic tweets to see if the story they tell matches up to the same the person you are prospectively dating. Like Facebook, Twitter accounts created around the same time as dating profiles should be treated with caution.


LANGUAGE

Take a close look at your love interest’s profile - does the language they use correlate with their background and how they talk to you via emails and texts? For example, is their profile peppered with flowery language, but the texts they send to you sounds like a character from “Boyz N the Hood? This is another red flag, as it means they may have cut and pasted their profile, using sentences or paragraphs from another dating profile. Try searching for a few of the sentences online. Also, check their spelling and grammar.  Someone who purports that they are from your city should not sound like they are from another country.


MONEY

This should be an easy one, but is overlooked by many catfishing victims. Thousands of people are duped out of money every single day as a result of catfishing scams! So if your love interest asks for money, simply say no and stop talking to them. This sounds like an obvious red flag, but many victims get swept up in their emotions and think with their heart. If they even bring up money (complaining about unpaid cell phone and internet bills, they need visas to visit, etc.) more than once, they are most likely trying to gain your sympathy. Either confront them about it, or simply walk away.


TOO SERIOUS, TOO SOON 

The scammer appears to be everything that the victim has been searching for, which can cause the victim to get caught up in their emotions and not think logically. Things can move fast due to the scammer’s manipulative tendencies and techniques. If you are in this position and everything seems too good to be true, and your love interest begins to profess their love after a few days or weeks – run!  True love takes time and effort to build and usually starts to develop AFTER two people have met in person.


Online dating is now a common way to meet new people in Wisconsin and beyond, but precaution still needs to be taken to ensure your safety. If you live in Wisconsin and need a private investigator to confirm or uncover the true identity of your online love interest, reach out to Stealth Advise. At Stealth Advise, we work hard at uncovering the truth and ensure that all clients are satisfied. Contact us today!