Looking for love? If you're thinking about using an online dating app, take steps to protect yourself from romance scammers.
Romance scams happen when someone creates a fake online persona to earn a victim’s love and confidence. The criminal then uses the false illusion of romance or intimate bond to defraud or rob the victim. The FTC reports $304 million lost in online dating in 2020, losses that have escalated to four times the reported amount in 2016.
Here are 4 online dating warning signs that should raise red flags:
Warning sign #1: Beware of people asking for personal information right off the bat
At first glance, it seems reasonable: you meet someone, you’re beginning to make a connection and you want to find out more information about your love interest. Be careful about offering up personal information like your mother’s maiden name or where you were born.
The quickest way to create a bond, is by sharing deeply personal information...right?
Not so fast, says Vyacheslav Zholudev, founder of identity verification software company SumSub, tells Yahoo Life. Giving the bad guys your private information can allow them to steal your identity, along with your heart. “Modern security systems block the infamous deep fakes, synthetic identities, and phishing attacks very well. The actual challenge is user weakness.”
Scammers can use your personal information to try and steal passwords and logins to try to infiltrate anything from your email to your bank account. They could also use it to send you phishing emails in attempts to get you to log onto malicious websites.
While you are first getting to know someone online, keep your communications neutral and never give out personal information including your phone number that can be used as answers to online security questions.
Warning sign #2: Your date plans to meet you, but needs to cancel because of a financial emergency
After luring in unsuspecting love interests, the fraudsters make plans to meet. However, they never have any intentions of meeting in person. At the last minute, the con artist claims a personal emergency came up and they can’t meet. The solution? Wire funds for a made-up situation (like hospital bills), then they’ll be able to afford to take the trip to visit. The FTC warns consumers not to send or wire transfer money or gifts ‘to a sweetheart you haven’t met in person.’
That desire to meet is why some people decide to fork over the funds. After a virtual courtship on a dating site, the longing to be in each other's physical presence can feel very strong.
Be very cautious if your online sweetheart can only meet if you send funds. That’s a warning sign.
Warning sign #3: Your date refuses to chat via video
If your online date doesn't want to do a video chat before you meet in person, take note and beware.
Scammers don't want to video chat because they set up fake profiles with pictures they swipe from the internet; talking on video would immediately expose them as fraudsters.
To get around the deception, insist on a video call, at least at first, to make sure you are dealing with the person in the profile picture. It’s understandable that people can be camera-shy. But an unwillingness to appear on video, ever, should be taken as a possible warning sign.
And if your alarm bells are ringing, here's a tip to make sure your sweetie really is who he says he is: conduct an image search using their online dating photo using a search engine called reverse image search. The Tampa Bay Newswire reports that if you search by photo but there's a different name associated with it, you’re likely dealing with a scammer. And if the user’s online profile vanishes a few days after they meet you, that’s another warning sign.
Warning sign #4: Your match tries to move your conversations immediately to text
One tactic hackers often try is to get you away from the official matchmaking platform and onto different methods of communication like email, text, or phone conversations. On the surface, it seems understandable - you meet someone, make a connection, they want to continue the conversation away from the dating website.
Why be wary? Scammers want to work in the shadows. Moving your conversation offsite allows them access to communication channels that aren’t monitored.
Taking the conversation offline can seem like the next logical step when meeting someone on a dating website.
While you are getting to know someone, keep your conversations to the dating site for your personal safety.
And remember: trust your instincts and go slow.
Photo: Getty Images