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I T’S FEBRUARY, THE month of romance. Looking
for love online? Surely you’ve heard stories of happy
couples who met on dating sites. Unfortunately, you
may be less aware that crooks use online dating sites
to prey on vulnerable individuals.
Though the amounts of money and specific
details of an online dating scam vary from victim to
victim, the ruse is often the same: A crook starts a
relationship with you online, says what you want to
hear in order to build trust and then convinces you
to wire him money or provide access to your credit
card. Some go so far as to make wedding plans
before disappearing with your cash.
Look for these red flags to help you avoid the
true heartache of online dating scams.
The image. Scammers love using stock photos
and random photos from the Web to create fake
online dating profiles. They may also text or email
these photos to you to convince you of their stories.
They use an avatar of a model to seduce you. They
post photos of exotic cars, mansions or luxury destinations to get your guard down so they can convince you to loan them money later on—money
that, for some reason, they “have” but are “not able
to access.” They may send you a photo of a “relative”
in a hospital to solicit money from you to pay hospital bills. These are just some examples.
A reverse image search on Google Images
images.google.com) and TinEye (
help you debunk viral images and call out a fake. On
Google Images, click on the small camera to upload
the image and search the Web for it; on Tin Eye
there is an upload button that allows you to search.
Talking off-site. Con artists want to get you
to communicate with them off a dating site because
of the possibility they may be monitored or suspended by the site. Being discovered and booted off
a website means they may not be able to find others
online dating sites
to scam when they are done with you. One common
way to move the conversation is for them to say, “My
membership on this site is almost up. How about if
we text or communicate through our personal
email?” Not everyone who says this is trying to con
you; however, it is common in online dating scams.
Spelling and grammar mistakes. Pay
attention to spelling, grammar and word choices.
Many scam artists run operations from overseas.
Consistent poor grammar, spelling or strange word
choices are signs you may be communicating with a
scam artist from a different country. It should raise
suspicion if a user does not spell or compose phrases
that make sense.
Elevated intensity. If you meet someone
online and his passion and intensity go from zero to
100, beware! The goal is to get you to fall in love
with the idea of him, even though you haven’t met
in person. If he can reel you in by creating a fantasy,
he can then get you to suspend good judgment and
convince you to do what he asks.
Meeting in person. If you haven’t met in
person after weeks of communicating, be concerned. Commonly, if you propose an in-person
meeting, a scammer will come up with an excuse
for why it can’t happen. The excuse usually
involves traveling, being stationed overseas or
having an emergency. One way to find out if
someone is for real is to suggest talking on Skype.
If that person has an excuse as to why he or she
cannot do that, head for the hills.
Emergencies. After a crook creates a relationship with you, he will play on your heartstrings
by desperately contacting you about emergencies
that require financial help. Common emergencies
include urgent hospital bills and business expenses,
visas, travel expenses (he may ask for money to fly
back to the U.S. to meet you), personal crises and/or
a sudden accident or illness. Once you start giving,
a scammer will keep asking and taking.
Don’t let your emotions override common
sense when meeting people online. Be aware, cautious and discerning. If something doesn’t seem
right about an individual, always trust your
A RELATIONSHIP with
people you meet online may
not be what you think it is
if, before meeting you in
person, they ask you to:
• Give them your
address so they can
send flowers or gifts
• Give them your bank
• Allow transfers into
your bank account
• Wire money for them
to third parties
• Make an online
purchase for them
• Forward a package
to another country
• Carry a package
to another country
• Travel abroad to
meet them in person
for the first time
Don’t be fooled. These
are signs you are being
taken. Block suspicious
users and report them to
the dating site. Report
online dating scams to the
Federal Trade Commission
ftc.gov), the Internet
Crime Complaint Center
ic3.gov),;and your state
attorney general. C