Online Dating Scammers are a real concern. So how can you protect yourself?
Millions of men and women flock to dating sites each year in search of fun, companionship and even true love. What many find are online dating scammers, waiting to pray on the vulnerable and innocent. In an interview with Glamour Magazine, Mark Brooks, editor of Online Personals Watch, discussed the dangers of online dating, saying “On most dating sites, one out of 10 profiles is a scammer.” In fact, a study conducted by researchers at Cornell and Michigan State Universities found that 80 percent of online daters lie about their age, height, or weight. There are several ways to determine if you could be falling prey to an online scam artist. Learn how to use the internet and online dating sites safely to avoid becoming a “romance” scam victim.
Spotting a Fake Profile
Online dating scammers, often referred to as ‘catfish,’ generally make up fake profiles using fake pictures, fake names, and false information that will appeal to the masses. The anonymity of online dating has opened the flood gates to cheats, liars, and thieves looking to make a quick buck. There are several “red flags” that may indicate that a person is a scammer rather than a legitimate admirer. If the individual in question does any of the following, he or she may be an online dating scammer:
- Invites you to check out his or her profile or pictures on a different website.
- Sends you an extremely forward and flirty message even though you’ve never spoken or met before.
- Sends you high-quality model pictures even though you haven’t even completed your dating profile or uploaded a picture.
- The spelling and grammar on the profile is very poor and sounds foreign. According to Dating N More, many romance scams originate from West African countries like Nigeria and Ghana.
- The person requests your full name, address, phone number, or other identifying personal information. They may be collecting information for identity theft.
- If the message seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Protecting Yourself Online
There are numerous ways to protect yourself and your identity from online dating scammers. First, never share personal information with anyone you’ve met over the internet, no matter how long you’ve been speaking back and forth. While your online ventures may seem safe, in hindsight, you’ll realize that you’ve been giving any precious information that could lead to identity theft and fraud. Stick to a first-name basis when you first meet someone online and never share your home address.
In 2012, the IC3 received 289,874 consumer complaints regarding online scams, equaling an adjusted dollar loss of $525,441,110. Fraud can occur in a number of ways, including computer hijacking. To avoid fraudsters from stealing confidential information from your private computer, consider signing into your online dating service using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN will keep your IP address and ISP hidden from potential scammers.
Many online users also use fraud protection services to keep their personal information safe online. Services such as LifeLock offer state-of-the-art technology that will alert you early on if there are threats to your identity. Having an alert system in place can provide you with the peace of mind of knowing your identity is being protected. In addition to fraud protection services, it’s also important to keep an eye on your credit report to look for any inconsistencies. If you believe that you could be at risk for fraud or identity theft, visit one of the three credit bureaus to put a fraud alert on your credit line.