Protecting yourself from online dating scams

Be wary if someone seems to be too good to be true

By Nancy Plummer, Columnist, The Times

NancyPlummerLogoYou’ve found the perfect man: he’s sweet, he’s sexy and he has a way with words that makes you swoon. But when you ask to see him does he shy away and reschedule again and again? Does he always ask about you and ignore your questions about him? Does he want to talk about your financials and your personal information? If so, you may be the focus of a romance scam.

Romance scams are serious business. It is often women who you hear about as the targets of these vile scammers, but it happens all the time to men too! Taking advantage of someone’s ability to love should not be taken lightly.

Scammers will frequently lure in their victims with fake online profiles, sometimes based on the real personalities of military personnel or trusted officials working overseas. They contact their subject over email or text and earn their trust with compliments and sending gifts. When they’ve gained their trust and their defenses are down, scammers will ask for money or start sexting and use it to blackmail you at work. This can lead to illegal transactions and personal security is almost always threatened. Money isn’t the only thing that may be endangered in these scenarios; long-lasting feelings of emotional betrayal will always follow in a scammer’s footsteps.

If you’re questioning your partner’s loyalty or even their existence, let’s talk about the red flags and how to make sure this doesn’t happen to you!

  1. After only a few weeks of chatting online they will profess their love to you and ask to speak privately over text or email.

Be careful of this, scammers will always try to move away from the online dating site and speak with you separately a little too quickly. It can be easier to get you to put down your guard and find out your personal information.

  1. Their online profile is inconsistent with the information they provide you and when you ask about it they quickly change the subject or make you feel naïve.

If their profile picture is wildly different than images they provide you or they say they went to an Ivy League school and their English is poor don’t let them talk you out of being cautious. Some scammers may not provide you with any pictures other than the ones posted to their dating app profile. It’s important to take your instincts seriously as they may get you out of dangerous situations.

  1. Asking to meet in a private place for the first date isn’t just weird; it’s unsafe.

The first date when you meet someone online should always be in a public place. It’s a good idea when you’re going on a lot of first dates to always go back to the same bar or restaurant and get to know the bartender or wait staff so you can get out of an unwanted situation. A private date opens you up to the potential for financial or physical harm.

  1. Changing plans at the last minute: it’s not spontaneous, it’s just sketchy.

It’s okay to reschedule, but dragging out a date for weeks on end is not a good sign. When plans change at the last minute again and again because they’re ‘busy’ or ‘something came up,’ it may be time to step back and take another look at the situation. In this particular case it’s possible that they aren’t a scammer, but if your prospective partner can’t make time to meet you and get to know you personally, it’s time to keep looking.

  1. When you tell your friends everything about your new guy, they tell you he seems too good to be true and are worried about you.

Trust your friends! Sometimes it’s hard to recognize when you’re in a bad situation and a little too easy to ignore a bad feeling and put it off as paranoia; but that’s what friends are for. Your friends will not keep quiet if they think your guy or gal is bad news, and it’s important to listen to their instincts too.

Don’t go in with the expectation that your new romance is a scam, because it can be amazing to find love online! It is important however to trust your instincts and look for these and more red flags. Men and women get scammed all the time, but finding the love of your life with online dating is worth the risk. Stay careful and don’t give up on love: give up on the losers.

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