For cyber criminals, online dating scams are big business and poses a major threat to unsuspecting and vulnerable individuals. The number of scams relating to online dating sites has tripled over the past decade as the internet surges to the default method for people searching for love.
With this popularity comes increased opportunities for cyber criminals to target the very innocent who collectively hand over many millions of dollars each and every year to online scammers. These online dating scams are indeed very sophisticated networks with highly trained scammers with one goal in mind – to rip people off.
In an industry where the desire to find love is so strong, time after time, hour after hour, 365 days a week year in year out, a large portion of online daters continue to be left in ruins after thinking they’ve met the man or woman of their dreams.
In today’s article about how to avoid being scammed when using online dating sites, we’ll cover various research and statistics to help you understand the enormity of this problem and measures you can take to spot an online scammer. Authorities largely seem to be losing this battle with the first line of defense falling onto the victims themselves, before they fall prey. If you don’t fall for their tricks, the problem simply doesn’t exist. Help play your part in ridding the internet of these filthy parasites so they may crawl back into the gutter.
Recently, the Department of Justice published information regarding seven men from Nigeria who had pleaded guilty to stealing many millions of dollars from American victims through the use of online dating sites via cleaver and orchestrated online romance scams, scams which were meticulously planned with extraordinary precision.
With this amount of money being involved in cases like this, it’s reasonable to think that a major dent had been inflicted into the operations of these kinds of organisations when it comes to online romance scams. However, there are many more numerous scenarios just like this one that would suggest this latest bust is just the tip of the iceberg. The extent of these cyber criminal rings are wide and are executed with the intention of specifically ruining people’s lives with devastating outcomes.
According to FBI intelligence, romance scams cost consumers more money compared to any other type of fraud on the internet. Since 2016, over 200 million dollars per year has been conned out of innocent men and women who used a dating site in search of romance. This figure is only what has been reported, with an unknown but probably a substantial number of more victims, according to the FBI, not reporting being scammed due to the personal nature of looking for love online and through sheer embarrassment. Given this, it’s reasonable to assume the losses relating to online romance could amount to more than one billion dollars annually.
Aside from potentially being scammed online, there is also wide-spread concerns among consumers relating to fear of horrible first dates. According to this online dating survey involving over 100,000 subscribers, 46% of these respondents who were considering using the internet to find romance said that romance scams remained a major concern. This worry is not unjustified, being scammed by a professional con artist can happen to anyone.
These romance scammers are masters at winning trust
The general strategy to build trust which is used by online romance scammers typically involves many long letters over weeks or months creating a brand new and very believable persona for their intended victims. This big investment in their time gives victims a false emotional sense of security that this person must be for real and that the relationship is genuine.
When the scammer feels the time is right and their trust has been earned, a pitch for money will come. The scammer will make false claims that an emergency with dire consequences is unfolding and they need the money immediately as a matter of urgency. This tactic makes it difficult for the victim to make thorough checks into the validity of the emergency.
One common approach is that the scammer will say a family member has suddenly been diagnosed with a life threatening illness and needs to be rushed into emergency surgery and that there’s delays in receiving funds from the insurance company and they need a bridging loan until the insurer reimburses them so the surgery can happen immediately otherwise there’s a strong chance their family member will die.
As recently as 2019, the FBI reported how one woman on the receiving end of an online romance scam, was duped by over one million dollars which was her entire nest egg. Even though the perpetrators were arrested and charged, her money had already been laundered and she never received one cent back.
People often assume that the victims of online romance scams are typically middle-aged women who are desperate to find love. However, Barb Sluppick, who runs a romance scam online support group says, “I have worked with a number men and women of all ages and backgrounds, including Doctors, company CEO’s and other highly professional industries workers, who most people would consider this group of people to never fall for an online romance scam but in fact do, vulnerability comes in all shapes and sizes.”
Further to the Consumer Report survey mentioned earlier, the report also found that 35% of people surveyed who have used online dating sites in the past complained how they had been extremely misled by peoples online dating profiles, and that 12% had in fact been the victim of some form of scam relating to online dating. Dating experts always suggest that you need to be skeptical at all times with what people say to you online.
Many dating websites, including the paid sites, do not have verification processes in place when people signup to these sites. Because of this, it’s entirely up to you to determine just how truthful the person is that you’re connecting with and that their dating profile is a true reflection of that person.
Below outline’s some strategies that anyone can use to help you identify an online romance scam
Run an image search
If you are feeling suspicious about the behaviour of the person you’re connecting with, by running a reverse image search on that person will help you identify if their profile pictures have been posted elsewhere under different names and locations etc. TinEye provides a free service where you can upload images to validate any concerns to see if their photos have been stolen.
Other measures you can take to check the validity of someone is to head to romancescams.org so you can check if this persons email address comes up on their database as known scam email addresses.
A little interrogation
Use the internet to see if there’s any dirt on your new online friend if something isn’t adding up. See if their name appears on any criminal record data bases by typing their name into Google and other search engines and see if anything shows up. Online romance scammers often use multiple names over and over with their victims so an online search will often uncover their tricks.
If nothing is showing up and your gut feeling is still making noises in your mind, take steps to keep investigating via social media pages such as Facebook and Linkedin. Online romance scammers often use deceptive tactics by also faking their profession and business credentials. For example, he or she might claim they own a plastic surgery company in the US. A claim such as this can be easily validated by contacting the US embassy to check if the business even exists.
Turn to someone you trust for advice
If you are concerned you are being primed and are starting to feel nervous about your new online friend and they are asking for money, check with someone you trust for their advice. By asking for help from someone who is not emotionally invested in your situation is a great way to see things in its real perspective.
Together, we can all unite against these inhuman creatures. All you need to do is hit the delete or block button and cease communication.