Every year many people become a victim of online dating scams. Unfortunately these people do not even realize they are victims to dating scams until it is too late. The intention of all dating scams is to obtain money from innocent members of dating websites, therefore the importance of being familiar with the types of scams used and recognizing the signs of a scammer cannot be underestimated.
A scammer can work alone, or as part of a larger group of individuals who spend their time chatting to legitimate members of dating websites. They do this by creating a false profile, often similar to your perfect match and they befriend you and gain your trust and affection. Once you have let your guard down and you believe they are your ideal partner, it is at that point that you could fall victim to one of the many scams widely used. The four main scams used on dating websites are the travel scam, the prostitute scam, the phone scam and the postal scam. Each scam is fairly straightforward and all result in you departing with your money if you fall victim to one.
One of the main purposes of using an online dating website is to eventually meet up with the individuals you chat to. Once you agree to meet up with someone, who unknowingly to you is a scammer, they will explain to you that they are currently living overseas and cannot afford the travel expenses to visit you. Having gained your trust and affection it is at this point they ask you to send them money for travel expenses and many innocent people send money to a scammer hoping that they will finally get to meet the man or woman of their dreams, but in reality you will never hear from them again. This is known as the travel scam and is sadly very commonly used.
The prostitute scam is fairly simple. Prostitutes take advantage of the online dating market and use dating websites to solicit business. A false profile is created, usually with a sleazy username and a raunchy detailed description, therefore making it relatively easy to recognise. Some people believe these prostitutes are genuinely looking for a relationship, but don’t be fooled into thinking this. They are on dating websites for one reason only; to make money at your expense.
The phone scam has been around for many years now but has now sadly become one of the online dating scams. As a member of a dating website you may receive a message from someone you have become friendly with asking you to phone them on the phone number given to you. You will be led to believe they want to talk to you in person away from the dating website. Unfortunately the phone number will not belong to the person you believe you are in contact with and you will find yourself receiving a large phone bill as a result of phoning the number given to you.
Scammers use several variations of the postal scam, although the principle is the same for all of them; you will be asked to send money. The most common postal scam is the Nigerian 419 scam which is also known as AFF or Advanced Free Fraud. This scam is usually used by people living in Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Ghana and possibly other countries in western Africa. Once a scammer has befriended you, they will tell you that they live in the UK and are currently working abroad, generally one of the countries previously mentioned. They will then give a plausible reason for needing money urgently and ask you to send them the money leading you to believe that you are the only person that can help them. Many people fall for the scams at this point and send the requested money, believing that they are genuinely helping a new friend in need. Scammers give many reasons for needing money, some examples are; They will tell you that they have a critically ill relative back in the UK and they need money for travel expenses to urgently visit them; They will claim to have been mugged and all their money and credit cards have been stolen, therefore requiring money to help them; They will tell you they are a student and need money while they complete their university degree; They may claim to be a relative of a deceased government official and require your assistance in transferring large sums of money, promising to give you a large amount of money in return for allowing them to use your bank account.
The importance of knowing when you could be in contact with a scammer cannot be underestimated. There are several signs to look out for which may include; a vague personal description that does not match the photo; they will avoid answering questions, usually because they are sending the same message to numerous people; conversations will be repeated; the tone and style of message may change; the use of very poor grammar and spelling, although this sign alone does not mean they are a scammer as many people have spelling and grammar issues; immediate responses to your messages; they will ask you to switch to using your personal email to avoid detection by the dating website; they will claim to be in love or falling in love with you, possibly sending you a romantic poem. One of the most obvious signs to look out for is a profile photo that looks like a model, which probably is of a model, but not a picture of the person sending you messages. Scammers use photos of beautiful people because profiles with beautiful people usually receive more mail, therefore the scammers have numerous people to choose between when deciding who they are going to pursue. More often than not if a profile photo looks too good to be true, it usually is.
If you have been a victim of a scam and have sent money, unfortunately there is little chance of you recovering it. Once money has been sent, the scammer usually ends all communication with you, although there is a slight chance you may be asked to send more money. If you are concerned you are in contact with a scammer, report them immediately to the online dating website you are using and stop all correspondence with them.
In general online dating sites are completely safe, as long as you follow the safety rules and look out for the signs of a scammer. Many sites both large and small screen members and look out for scammers, but unfortunately some online dating sites allow anyone to join and are only concerned in members actively sending messages. Don’t be fooled into thinking larger paying dating sites screen members, as not all of them do.
When using any online dating website, under no circumstances should you send money to anyone or reveal your bank account details. No matter how plausible a reason may sound, never send money. Having gained your trust a scammer will take advantage of your feelings and kind nature. No matter how well you feel you know someone, be skeptical and avoid becoming a victim to an online dating scam.