In a perfect world, the biggest challenge when it comes to online dating is finding the perfect match. Unfortunately, the internet is full of people looking to scam innocent victims and online dating sites are one of the easiest places to find suitable victims.
Online dating scams have been around since online dating gained a foothold some twenty years ago. Scammers utilized message boards and chat rooms to befriend and ultimately scam people all the time. Eventually dating sites like Match and eHarmony came along and required users to create profiles to protect against scammers, and even with those protections in place the scammers found ways to circumvent the system and target victims.
The scammers are typically based in foreign countries, with the African nation of Nigeria being home to one of the largest clusters of dating scammers. Known as “Yahoo Boys,” these scammers learn from the other scammers around them and even have the opportunity to buy scam scripts to help them hone their craft.
It’s important to know that there are scammers lurking everywhere on the internet and they’re highly prevalent on online dating sites. The best way to protect yourself is to be aware of the people you talk to online, and if someone you’ve met online starts asking for favors it’s time to shut the conversation down.
Things To Know about Dating Scam Formats
Online dating scams start with scammers looking for suitable victims on dating sites, but they don’t limit their searches to dating sites. Social media platforms are also common hunting grounds because people meet people on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all the time. In fact, scammers will use personal information found on social media to help them make connections with their victims.
The reason online dating scams are so successful is that scammers take time to build a relationship with their victims. The victims are in a vulnerable place already because online dating requires people to be open and honest on their search for love. Many times scammers look for victims who recently lost their spouses or who have been single for a long time.
The scammers learn a victim’s habits and hobbies so that they come across as the perfect match. By that point the “relationship” has reached a point where both sides are comfortable sharing information with each other.
After a trusting relationship is established, the scammers make their move.
Common Dating Scam Formats
Once the relationship is established, it’s time for scammers go to work. The scams start with small requests to test the water. It could be anything from a paycheck that didn’t come to a Social Security check that was lost in the mail. The scammer will ask for borrow money from a victim with the promise of paying it back. If the victim agrees, the scammers know they have the green light to proceed.
The next phase of the scam involves larger sums of money.
Here are some of the common scams that you might hear:
- There is a sick family member who needs medicine that insurance doesn’t cover
- A family member is in jail and needs to be bailed out
- Rent is due and if it isn’t paid they will get kicked out
Since one trait of online dating scams is that the scammer never meets the victim, another very common scam is that they need money for plane tickets to come visit. They want to meet you but can’t afford plane tickets. The problem is that even if you send the money for plane tickets, the scammer isn’t going to show up. Something will always come up that prevents a meeting in real life.
Eventually the sums being requested get bigger and bigger. If the victim refuses, two things tend to happen: Either the scammer walks away, or the scammer gets aggressive.
All of a sudden the person pretending to be the victim’s dream boyfriend (or girlfriend) gets angry. They make threats. They claim to have pictures or information that they can make public. (They usually don’t, but it’s a good threat for an already vulnerable person)
By the time the situation reaches this point, it’s possible that a victim has already lost tens of thousands of dollars.
Military Romance Scams
Online dating scams are a huge problem in the military community. Scammers steal photos from the Facebook pages of service men and women and create profiles to target victims who have lost military spouses. They also target single women in Facebook groups.
Military scams are very common because it’s easy for scammers to explain why they can’t meet their victims in person thanks to “being on deployment overseas.”
Military romance scammers ask for money for their weekends off, or movie tickets, or money for cigarettes and candy. Eventually they start asking for money for the same things discussed above, like money for a sick child, and they need it to be sent to a third party so that the money gets to the child’s family. The reality is that the third party is either another scammer or another victim who will unwittingly launder the money before sending it on to the scammers.
With military romance scammers it’s important to know that they can pull photos from Facebook to make it look like they’re on deployment. They can create profiles of fictitious commanding officers who will corroborate their stories.
The only way to avoid these scammers and their tricks is to talk to the person you meet online, both on the phone and through apps like Facetime or Hangouts. Make sure that the person in the photos matches the person you’re talking to, otherwise you’re likely dealing with a scammer.
Specialty Dating Site Scams
Like military romance scams, other specialized dating sites also have the same problem of scammers preying on users.
In many ways, specialty dating sites are an even bigger hunting ground for scammers because anyone who uses them comes looking for something specific, which makes it easy for scammers to use the same scripts over and over again.
One of the things to watch out for with special dating sites like oil rig dating sites, logger dating sites or any of the other ones out there is when someone contacts you privately. Many scammers skip the dating sites that force you to wait to be matched with other users and instead go to sites where they can message people directly.
The difference with specialty dating site scams is that they’re specific to the site. Money might be needed for things to keep a logger stuck in the middle of the Pacific Northwest busy on a weekend. It’s essentially a play on the same scam, customized for the audience.
How To Protect Yourself from Scams
Just as the scammers use the same scams over and over again to trick their victims into parting ways with their money, so too can you apply the same methods to being safe from their advances.
Scammers cast wide nets, often reaching out to several people at the same time to see who responds. If someone reaches out to you on social media or a dating platform, proceed with caution. As soon as conversations turn to requests for money and favors, it’s best to end communication entirely.
Since scammers are usually operating out of foreign countries, it’s very hard to recoup losses. If a scammer makes threats against you, notify the police at once and don’t play into the threats. Online dating should be a wonderful experience, and while it’s unfortunate that scammers are always waiting to pounce, you shouldn’t avoid online dating out of fear. If you exercise the same caution you use in your everyday life you should be just fine.
It is important that you perform a quick background check on who you are actually speaking to on the internet (you can do that here). The common questions that spring to mind are:
- Are they using fake identities?
- Am I really speaking to a real person from the USA?
To help the users of this site we have partnered with BeenVerified so you can check exactly that. This checking service reveals everything about this would be romance scammer and if they are a real person!
Helpful Information Available on BeenVerified:
- Arrest Records (Please check this!)
- Photos (Helps check if same photos are used for multiple profiles with different names)
- Email Addresses
- Phone Numbers
- Social Profiles (IMPORTANT – Do they have a real social profile or multiple)
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- Sex Offenders Register (Be safe who you are meeting!)
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If you have the slightest doubt about who you are speaking to… Please use this service!