This week I had the pleasure of getting out of my office and away from the writing desk to dispense my wisdom on television. Denver 9News reporter Melissa Blasius contacted me to help her develop a story about online dating scams. Here is the video if you want to check it out!
You’d be surprised just how common online dating scams are. Anyone who’s ever dated online knows that you can meet creeps and flakes; but it’s a whole different ballgame when someone tries to dig into your vulnerabilities – your need for companionship and love – in order to rip you off. These people are everywhere, infiltrating online dating sites and other social media sites such as Facebook. So I thought I’d devote a post to talking about signs that you’re being scammed or gamed.
Online dating scammers will go after anyone, male or female. However, they tend to target people over 40, who didn’t grow up in the Information Age and aren’t as online savvy. They also target people who are divorced, widowed, or single parents… people who may be lonely and vulnerable to the affections of an attractive stranger.
Warning Signs of an Online Dating Scam
The overseas connection. Often, scammers live overseas and will either admit to living there or will say they’re American but “temporarily” there for business or other reasons. Long distance relationships are hard enough when someone lives in the next state over… developing a romance with someone 10 time zones away is pretty unrealistic. Also, some scammers will claim they’re in the military and deployed overseas.
Email marathons. The purpose of online dating isn’t to develop an online “pen pal” – it’s to MEET PEOPLE. Thus, while some chatting over email is important to establish trust, rapport, and interest, extensive emailing back and forth isn’t good because it creates a false sense of intimacy with someone you’ve never met in person. Online scammers are notorious for wanting to chat a LOT – they’re trying to earn your trust.
Flattery. Online scammers will flatter the shit out of you. They will say you’re beautiful or handsome. They will try to make you feel valued. They may also appeal to your ego: if you’re a guy, the picture will be a young, attractive woman who makes it clear she’s attracted to you and wants to meet you. If you’re a woman, the picture will be a nice looking guy who tells you that you’re beautiful and that he’s dying to meet you. The pics are usually fake, stolen off the internet (see Resources below).
Quick intimacy. Online scammers will start talking in romantic or sexual ways very quickly, even dropping the L word. Huge red flag. Regular people don’t do this; how do you have strong feelings for someone you’ve never met? You don’t.
Bad English. Because so many scammers are from other countries (Nigeria is a common one), their grasp of our language is weak. They will misspell and misuse words in a way that makes it clear they don’t speak our language.
Requests for help. And, last but never least, the telltale sign of a scammer is when they ask for money. That’s their end game. The number can be big or small. Often, scammers will have a myriad of excuses for why they can’t come see you or meet in person (another red flag), and will often ask for money to fly them out to visit you, to reinstate their Visa to come to the US, or to pay someone to remove the giant boulder that’s holding them back from being with the person they love so dearly. There’s even a scam where men posing as U.S. military men looking for laptops or other stuff will attempt to get money out of people.
Facebook. Ever look through your messages on Facebook? If so, you probably have a series of messages from random men or women telling you that you’re attractive and that they’re looking to meet a nice man or woman. On Facebook, I accept friend requests from strangers because of the nature of my business; but every now and again I get a request from a guy who has no friends and few to no posts. He always has an Anglo name and a nice photo where he’s by himself, in a uniform, or with a child. Potential scammer. The photos are usually fake and stolen from someone else on Facebook.
Melissa, the reporter who interviewed me, purposely developed a month-long online relationship from a guy who found her on Facebook. Sure enough, he was a nice looking man with a very Anglo-American name. His English was pitiful. He wrote her day and night, asked her what she did for a living, if she were married (she is!), how much money she made. He told her nice things. He probed her for more information. She Google searched his photo and, sure enough, it belonged to some other guy on Facebook, a guy whose Middle Eastern name matched his Mediterranean look. And sure enough, he eventually asked her for money.
In summary, if a stranger contacts you on an online dating site, on social media, or anywhere else, and displays the above signs – or any other sign you find odd – do your research. Run it by other people. Do some Google searches. It’s better to feel a little foolish now than feel much more foolish later. And be sure to check out the resources below:
Good website for romance scams help and resources: http://www.romancescams.org/
Google image search (to see if a person’s pic can be found elsewhere on the internet): http://images.google.com/