Dating today can be very stressful. Not only do you have to watch out for your heart, your sanity, and that guy with the weird fetish, but with the advancement in popularity of online dating sites comes a new fear to add to the mix: having to worry about scammers trying to empty your wallet. Awesome.
Romance scams defined: Romance scams are confidence tricks by money hungry con-artists involving faux-romantic intentions toward a vulnerable victim, thereby gaining their trust and affection and in return using that goodwill to commit evil acts of fraud. In most cases these fraudulent acts involve access to money, bank accounts, credit cards and passports of the scammer’s prey.
The signs of a romance scam: Fortunately, the key to staying clear of such a disaster is education. By knowing what a romance scam is and being able to recognize the tell-tale signs that come with it, you will be a savvy-internet dater who can avoid those scamming scumbags on the web.
If you are involved with someone who you feel might be on the shady end of the internet dater spectrum, ask yourself the following questions. If you answer yes to the majority, the likelihood is high that a scammer is trying to squeeze your bank account dry:
- Do they contact you first?
- In your initial contact with them did they offer you a means of chatting other than through the dating site? (i.e. personal email)
- Does their profile picture resemble a model or someone extremely above average? Like perhaps it was taken from a magazine?
- Does their alleged age/gender/race not match their picture?
- Do they only have a profile picture and no others?
- Is their spelling/grammar atrocious, not aligned with their supposed background/education level, and reminiscent of a 2nd grader’s?
- Do they claim to be a U.S. citizen just out of the country for work?
- Do they claim to be American but have a foreign accent when you speak to them on the phone?
- Do they respond to your emails with subjects that have zero to do with what you sent them?
- Is their alleged last name something very generic like Jones, Williams or Smith?
- Did they fall in love with you freakishly fast and profess their feelings of loyalty and undying devotion?
- Are they sending gifts like flowers right away?
- Do they seem unfamiliar with their supposed home town or country?
- Do they give you sob stories like a family member died, medical problems, or other similar hardships?
- Do they blatantly ask you for money to assist them with their troubles?
- Do they ask you for your bank account details?
- If you enter their email address in a Google search, does it return results associated with scams?
What to do if you’ve been scammed. So it’s confirmed. The “wonderful” person you’ve been pouring your heart and soul out to over the internet turns out to not be who they said they were. In fact, they are a lying, thieving con-artist not after your love, but your assets. Whether you’re just in communication with them or they’ve already made off with your hard-earned dough, here are the steps you need to take:
- Cease all contact immediately. Block the scammer and do not respond to emails, chats, calls, etc. Do not try to catch the scammer on your own—this is a job for the appropriate authorities.
- Alert the dating site. Be sure to let the dating site that connected you and the scammer of the situation. Any reputable company will take action and remove the scammer’s fake dating profile to save other online daters like yourself from being victimized.
- Alert the authorities. File a complaint with your local police. Be able to provide them with proof such as emails, text messages, letters or anything else that shows that the con-artist requested money. They will then gather more information from the involved dating site and hopefully arrest the criminal who stole money from you. In some lucky situations, you may even see your money again.