How to Avoid Online Dating Scams this Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, which means a lot of us might be scrambling last minute to find a date for the most romantic day of the year.
Before cell phones and Tinder, we would go out, meet new people, and be more sociable in the hope of finding our perfect match and someone to spend Valentine’s day with. Now, the search of finding your next fling, a date, or even a serious relationship most likely begins with the opening of an app and a right swipe.
As always, quite a few risks are related with using mobile and online means to meet that special person. It is important for internet users to be wary when using online dating apps and websites in order to be protected from scams, other threats, and embarrassment. It is not unromantic to put your own safety first.
According to KSL, these are some of the most common scams targeted at the online dating community this year, and a few tell-tale signs and tips on how you can avoid becoming their next victim:
By now, most of us know the term “catfish” and what it is- the creation of a fake online profile used to seduce other users, amongst a variety of other reasons. While most of us are aware that there are people that posing as others to dupe unsuspecting online daters, there are still tons of people of all ages that fall for catfishing scams on a regular basis. The worst part, however, is that many “catfish” pose a serious threat, not just a broken heart.
Multiple fake “catfish” accounts are created to set the basis for other serious online scams, often involving fund transfers, blackmailing, etc. As sad as it is, this is why verification that the online individual you are communicating with is real is so important.
One of the best and most efficient ways to reveal if you are being catfished is to run a “reverse image search”, that is googling the URL linked to the photograph, on the profile picture the suspected account is using. Not only will this reveal other locations the image shows up on other websites, but allows you to see if it has been taken from another legitimate account, thus exposing the catfish.
Disclosure of Private Conversations
It is said by experts that one of the first steps a scammer will commonly take is asking you to relocate the conversation to a personal number or account other than the application you are already communicating on. This is because most dating apps can identify “sketchy” user behavior that personal numbers, social media, or email accounts can not track.
When a scammer has access to you offline, they can easily record any “personal” phone calls, screenshot your conversations, and save the images sent to them, making it possible for them to blackmail you in the future.
To be extra cautious, the best decision is to avoid the discussion of personal matters, keeping your conversations limited to the website or app if they try to move it offline. While it may be tempting to communicate offline, remaining in the website or app will lessen the probability of your private information being compromised.
Personal Emergency Scams
It might seem unlikely that nowadays anyone would send money to someone you’ve only “met” online, but online dating scammers are getting savvier every day. Online scammers are continuously discovering new and improved means of duping individuals who should know better than to transfer money or funds to a stranger online.
Sometimes, modern scammers will communicate with the targeted online dating user for weeks or months until they finally ask them to send money to assist with a “personal emergency”. Before asking, they will often send gifts or flowers to create the illusion that they are a real person with a legitimate interest in the target. This builds a foundation of trust before asking for any favors from the individual with whom they have formed a relationship with
To avoid forming a relationship with a scammer, research on new person you have began speaking to will need to be done. While checking their social media accounts (such as Facebook and Twitter) should be the first step in your research, those can be pretty easy to fake. It is essential to breach the surface of social media and delve deeper into the web to find out their true identity.
There are plenty of free online tools that can be used to discover more about the individual you are talking to online. To be extra safe, it is a good idea to run each potential online date and their profile through a mini-investigation process of your own to verify they are who they say they are.
Requests to Reship Merchandise
In some cases, online scammers will make fake profiles and build a relationship with the target prior to asking them to reship merchandise. Illicit reshippers may ask to help their business or family by getting packages shipped to you and then mailing them elsewhere on “behalf of a client”, often using postage-paid labels provided through email.
The request may seem innocent, but by sending the item you could be potentially looping yourself into criminal activity. Oftentimes, the packages contain merchandise bought using stolen credit cards or postal money orders that are counterfeit. While this scam is common also in non-romantic email schemes, it is now more prevalent than ever within the world of online dating.
In this instance, those who use online dating apps and websites are much more vulnerable to requests from scammers. This is, once again, because they are under the belief that they are in a legitimate online relationship which makes them more likely to trust the scammer. Like in the previous instances, deep research is necessary in confirming the person you’re communicating with online is not a scammer.
If you believe that you are a victim of an online dating scam, feel free to contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or at our main office at (571)-451-4833 with any questions or to explore other options. At Striker Pierce LLC, our Case Specialists can help you customize your online dating background investigation to meet your needs and work within your budget and ours.
Valentine’s Day tends to inspire some extra effort to find someone you can share the most romantic time day of the year with. Online dating can be a great way to find individuals who are prospected for a future date, but be sure to keep your own safety prioritized as you search for your next love interest online. You deserve to know. It is not unromantic to put your safety first.
If you wish to learn more about online dating scams, check out our other articles at www.strikerpierce.com.
Article by Ayla O’Shea, Social Media Analyst and Strategist at Striker Pierce LLC.
(Citation: Jarrett, Feb. 2017)