Often, if it seems too good to be true, it may well be. Reports suggest that in 2019 alone, online dating scams cost Americans $201 million. Meanwhile, in 2020 the UK saw victims of such scams being defrauded out of £68 million collectively.
You’re already familiar with the standard approach of not engaging with dating profiles with very little information on them. And not trusting individuals who refuse to disclose any personal information or prove their identity in any way? You’re already protecting yourself from some of the most common scams.
But just as users of online dating apps are becoming savvier, so are the individuals trying to trick them. So, you may be wondering if there is any way to stay safe in more complicated situations, where the person you’re talking to genuinely seems like the real deal.
There are a few ways, and below, we explore the five most effective methods of keeping your heart and your bank account safe when traversing the realm of online dating.
1. Keep an Eye Out for Fake Dating Profiles
If you’ve ever seen a dating profile with only one photo and a limited or poorly written bio riddled with spelling or grammar mistakes you may have immediately considered the possibility of it being a fake profile. Trust that instinct. Online dating often requires a considered level of commitment and attention, where everyone who is in it for the right reasons is striving to put their best foot forward. If the person you’re considering hasn’t even filled out a profile to the required degree, it’s likely they’re not looking for a romantic connection.
Yet even in situations where a profile ticks all of the minimum requirement boxes, there may still be signs that it’s fake. It’s designed only as a ruse to lure you in. In particular, watch out for well-constructed profiles including exclusively professionally shot and edited photos. If someone presents as absolutely impeccable (almost more like a celebrity), consider reverse searching their images on google. If the results point to the social media profiles of a person with a different name or stock images or images of models… then you can be certain they’re either running a scam or simply looking to catfish people.
Either way, the best course of action is to steer clear.
2. Approach Initial Interactions with a Touch of Skepticism
This step is not meant to imply that you shouldn’t be warm and approachable with someone you think you might like or someone you’re attracted to. But be wary of trusting all of the information they give you about themselves straight away, and equally. Be cautious about providing too much personal information about yourself.
Obvious red flags that could point to a scam in the initial conversation are a poor choice of words and difficulty getting coherent points across, or if the messages sound mechanical and robotic.
Alternatively, you could get messages that are well constructed but seem almost too perfect or even rehearsed. Additionally, you may be faced with the start of love bombing. It’s a practice where you are told everything you want to hear. And made to feel like you’re the centre of attention. Love at first sight may not be all that unusual. It is also not wrong to question communication that is immediately overly affectionate.
3. Pay Close Attention to How Quickly the Relationship Progresses
Assuming you’ve made initial contact, started regularly speaking to a person you’ve met online. Even when everything seemed to go well to begin with, there may still be signs that your acquaintance is not being fully honest with you. These could appear a few days into regular conversation.
The primary one to watch out for is, as mentioned above, love bombing. If you notice a sudden push to move off of a dating app, or a push to take a relationship to the next level: question the motives behind it. Ultimately, if he or she insists on moving through the stages of a relationship much too quickly, allow yourself to be cautious about their intentions.
Scammers on dating apps will often do everything in their power to probe for vulnerability and find out if their target is easily swayed by affectionate gestures. One great way to protect yourself in such situations is to ensure that your needs and wants are also considered and that you’re not allowing someone to push your boundaries just because they’re using nice-sounding words.
4. Be Wary of Sudden Shifts in Mood or Situation
If no red flags were raised at any of the previous steps mentioned and you’ve found that you’ve progressed through a few stages of a relationship with someone you’ve met online, then this next step is of utmost importance. Watch their behavior after you’ve been talking for a while, from a few days to a few weeks.
Sudden shifts from happy situations into terrible catastrophes also fits within this category. While unexpected bad things may happen to anyone at any moment, be wary of patterns where your online love interest is consistently plagued with issues, especially if they are monetary in nature. The best approach is to have a frank conversation with them about their situation. Consider if they respond positively to advise rather than expecting monetary assistance straight away.
5. Close Down or Reduce Communication if They Ask for Money
This one may seem obvious, but many savvy individuals have fallen victim to fraud slowly.
While financial support for a loved one or a person you’re close to can be part of the wider relationship. Outright giving someone money is not one of the key stages of a relationship.
It may be easy to spot a scam when they ask for a large sum of money. But small transactions may be much easier to justify, and many scammers are fully aware of that. Watch out for a mix of the other features mentioned above alongside requests for financial assistance. It is also worth considering turning a request down initially, even if you are planning to help, in order to see what their reaction is. A scammer is most likely to react negatively immediately and fall back on pressure tactics. If you’re faced with such a situation do not back down. Asking friends or family for support if possible.
If the person in question was making your feel very loved and cared for at the beginning, and has since moved on to making you feel uncomfortable, anxious, or upset frequently. Cut contact as soon as you can and in any way possible!
Online dating scams can target and victimize anyone, however, it is possible to find a genuine connection. Remember you not only deserve affection and attention, but also respect for your thoughts, feelings, and boundaries. Scammers will provide you with the first half while absolutely disregarding the second half. Be optimistic and romantic when approaching online dating, but never stop being cautious.