Online dating on major websites such as Match.com and eHarmony is a booming industry, and many people successfully find love and meaningful relationships on these sites. Even Facebook is a hotspot for meeting people for romantic and serious relationships now. Pew Research reports that nearly 11 percent of American adults have sought out romance through dating websites, like Match.com, POF.com, Okcupid.com, Christiansingles.com, eHarmony and countless others. The sites, for the most part, offer a great service and new way to meet people from the comfort of your own home.
But, this is assuming we live in a perfect world, and that all profiles on these sites are posted by real, and honest people, actually interested in an honest and real relationship. Now, wouldn’t that be great!
Unfortunately, with the prevalence of online dating has come a rise in the number of scammers who abuse the mediums. The FBI reports that the most common targets for online dating scams are women over 40 who are divorced, widowed, and/or disabled, but that does not mean that other demographics are immune to falling victim to fraud. When you decide to look for your next match, keep these tips in mind:
1. Stay local. Your best bet is to stick with matches that live close enough to be able to meet in person. Scammers often use the excuse of being too far away to meet in person as a way to keep you from discovering who they really are. When you do meet in person, pick a neutral location in public to ensure your own safety. If you’re talking with someone in another country, the risk is higher.
2. Proper English. Watch out for people who have a hard time with English. Some claim to be native English speakers but will use poor grammar and misspellings sometimes, the hallmark of a foreign scammer is someone that uses the English language awkwardly. Look for odd figures of speech or verbs that use the wrong tenses. Not all scammers are from overseas – but this step will help you eliminate the ones who are.
3. Stay mysterious. There is no reason to blurt out everything about yourself too early in an online relationship. Obviously you want to avoid giving out your home address, or workplace – or any financial accounts – but you should also be wary of talking about where you go for a morning run, or buy a cup of coffee. Until you meet someone in person and establish a level of trust, keep the details of your life private. You’d be surprised what things scammers can glean by simply piecing together the small comments you make about your life.
4. Do an online search. Use safe search engines like DuckDuckGo or Bing or Yahoo to look up everything you can on the person. Remember, even if you find a matching Facebook and Linkedin account or other website with the person, does not necessarily mean you are safe, but it’s a start. Criminals often assume false identities of real people. Not all people have an online presence, but this search is a good starting point.
5. Get on the phone. If someone seems like a good match for you, don’t wait to talk on the phone. It is very easy to hide behind the anonymity of the internet – but certainly much more difficult to do so when speaking over the phone. Getting the person’s phone number will also clue you in to if he or she has a local number, or at the very least a U.S. number. A person who avoids a phone call is a red flag.
6. Hire professional help. If you feel suspicious about a potential match, but can’t quite put your finger on why, don’t be afraid to ask for professional help. Have the person vetted through a dating background check by a private investigator. If he or she has nothing to hide, then you can sleep easy with evidence. If you’re communicating with a criminal or fraud, it’s best you find out early in the relationship, before you’ve been a victim.
6. Protect your privacy. It’s not necessary to share your exact date of birth or your address to get to know someone. You don’t need to tell him or her the company name and address where you work. Keep your financial data and personal data private, and if possible, try to maintain all communication via the dating website and phone until you are comfortable to meet in a public place.
7. Be skeptical. Listen to your gut instinct. Does something not seem right? Does he or she change their story often or travel a lot, or seem to write emails that don’t make sense, or seem to be almost form letters? Did he or she fall in love overnight? Is someone putting pressure on you to help? Does it seem to good to be true? Be skeptical and get a professional background check to be safe.
8. Know the risk. Think it couldn’t happen to you? Think again. Remember that anyone can be a victim – even police officers, doctors and lawyers fall victim to complex romance scams. All it can take is the slip of a tongue providing too much information, or clicking on the wrong link, or sharing an intimate photo or webcam chat and then getting blackmailed, have your identity stolen, or your bank account passwords hacked. Internet scammers are very good at what they do, and they do what is needed to convince you.
9. Never send money. It should go without saying, but never send money to anyone you’ve never met, for any reason, period. If you think you’ve met someone special who could genuinely use your help, speak to a reputable private investigator how to minimize your risk.
10. Listen to your gut. Does something not seem right? Even if it seems like nothing at all, if it concerns you, perhaps there is a good reason.
If you feel suspicious about a potential match, but can’t quite put your finger on why, don’t be afraid to ask for professional help. Have the person vetted through a dating background check by a private investigator. If he or she has nothing to hide, then you can sleep easy with evidence. If you’re communicating with a criminal or fraud, it’s best you find out early in the relationship, before you’ve been a victim.
You can save yourself a lot of heartache, and potentially a lot of cash, by hiring a professional.
© 2014 Wymoo International
© Copyright 2014 Wymoo International. All Rights Reserved. This content is the property of Wymoo International, LLC and is protected by United States and international copyright laws.