There has been a lot of press recently about dating scams – sadly cases increased by 64% in the first half of 2019.
A recent BBC news article shared details of how Brian had promised Elspet, 67, a bright future – a wonderful marriage and their own bungalow. But Brian was not real. He was a romance scammer, something Elspet did not realise until she had sent him £10,000.
They had met on a dating website, she had been taken in over email, and the money – including life savings – is now in his hands and lost to her.
Elspet had been convinced by his story of serving abroad in the military. She trusted him enough to believe that his friend, a diplomat, was bringing home his belongings but needed money for fares and courier fees. It was a lie. Read the full BBC article on romance scams here.
So how can you avoid being the target of an online dating scam?
Beware of profiles that sound too good to be true – one tip is to save the profile photo to your computer’s hard drive and upload it to the image search on your web browser to see if the image appears anywhere else on the internet. This is a great way to see if the picture in question was stolen from another website and help you determine if you are communicating with someone hiding behind a fake profile.
Beware if the person wants to quickly move the conversation away from the dating site to a new communication platform. After spending a reasonable amount of time chatting with a new dating prospect, the next step is usually exchanging phone numbers to continue the conversation over the phone or via text message.
However, if you feel you haven’t spent enough time getting to know the person through the dating site and he or she asks to exchange phone numbers or email addresses, don’t be afraid to decline that request until you feel more comfortable. If the other person becomes demanding or pushy about it and doesn’t respect your wishes, he or she may be afraid that the dating site is about to suspend or delete the fake account. At that point, our advice is to end all contact with that person.
Trust your gut feeling
Although it’s important to build up a reasonable amount of trust online before meeting each other in person, the goal of using a dating site is typically to find someone compatible with whom to spend your time and share your life. If you have attempted to meet several times but plans keep falling through or the user continuously provides excuses as to why he or she cannot meet you in person, this may be a sign you’re talking to a scammer.
Never send money to dating site users in response to their claim of financial hardship. If a person communicating with you on a dating site starts talking about his or her current financial struggles, especially if you haven’t yet met in person, be aware that this will likely lead to requests for money and could be a dating scam. There is never a valid reason for someone on a dating site to ask you for money, even if the person has spent weeks or months trying to convince you that he or she is in love with you. As soon as the first request for money is made, our advice is to end all contact with that person immediately.
Don’t share your home address or work location until you have the confidence that you know the person is genuine.
If you decide to meet someone in person, let friends and family know where you are going and set up a time to call and “check in” with a trusted friend or family member during or after the date to let them know that you’re safe.
It’s not all doom and gloom
Of course online dating can be an easy and enjoyable way to meet the love of your life, but please keep in mind that it can expose you to scammers who are only interested in profiting from your single status.
Dating should be fun – don’t let your heart rule your head and use common sense to avoid having your heart broken, your time wasted, or your bank account drained by a dating scam.
Consider registering with a personal introduction agency where experienced matchmakers meet each client in person, carry out identity checks and create each client’s dating profile giving you the confidence that anyone they introduce you to is who they say they are, looks like their profile photographs and is genuinely seeking a relationship.