Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and that means many are looking for a new romance in their life. Three in ten U.S. adults use dating websites or online dating apps to find that special person. Although online dating allows you to meet potential partners you may have never met otherwise, it also is an opportunity for scammers to take advantage of unsuspecting people looking for love.
Phony suitors are the downside of online dating. Sometimes it’s obvious; the person is too good to be true and wants to move too fast too soon. However, other times the person seems genuine; they seem sensitive, smart, and thoughtful. But then you get an urgent request for money over some emergency or tragedy. At this point you may feel torn and unsure what to do. Scammers are skilled and they make promises that make them appear caring and responsible. People have lost thousands of dollars thinking they are helping a potential love interest. Experts warn us that these four tactics are the most common romance scammers will use.
1. Your new love interest sends you a photo that makes them appear like a model. When someone is interested in a relationship with you, they’ll send you a photo of them with family, friends, or just a quick selfie on an average day.
2. Your new love interest wants you to leave the dating website and communicate through email or instant messaging.
3. He or she lavishes you with attention. They will keep you thinking of them with consistent texts, instant messaging, and emails.
4. Your new romance interest wants to meet you in person but always comes up with an excuse as to why they cannot.
If you see these four or any combination of these four, here’s how to take precautions:
1. Take it slow. Ask your potential partner lots of questions and watch for inconsistencies or double talk.
2. Check the photo. Google has "search by image" capabilities and if the same photo shows up in other places with a different name, that’s proof of a scammer. If the photo doesn’t look real, trust your gut.
3. Beware of gaslighting behavior. Being excessively flirtatious or complimentary isn’t real. It feels good to be flattered, but it’s also a sign that you’re being scammed.
4. Cut off contact immediately if you think you’re being scammed. The minute you suspect someone is the same minute you should cut off contact with them. Share any information with your friends as often friends will help with the research to catch someone who may be using you.
5. Notify the dating app about your scammer. Websites and dating apps rely on users of the platform to catch scammers. Don’t be embarrassed; it isn’t your fault if you’ve been scammed, but it is your responsibility to take action to help prevent the scammer from hurting someone else.
Most potential partners you meet online want the same thing you do – to feel loved and share their life with someone. However, keep in mind that the internet makes it significantly easier for scammers to lure potential daters looking for romance. When you get a feeling that a potential partner is too good to be true or not who they say they are, be diligent in slowing down and taking your time. Real romance is not hurried; it is built on an honest friendship