You’ve heard far too many stories about victims of romance scams who were tricked into giving cybercriminals money or valuable personal data. Fake profiles are common on dating sites today. At the same time, it can also be difficult to detect online dating scams if you don’t know what you are looking for.
While scams usually occur through dating sites and apps, some scammers also use social media and even email to find their potential victims. They are masters of disguise, making it look like their romantic interest is legitimate. They might even guarantee plausibility by calling someone and making an introduction. Here are five of the most common signs of a romance scammer.
It’s often the case that a scammer will express strong feelings in a relatively brief period. They will insist you were destined to meet and they are in love with you. Eventually, they will ask for personal information such as security question responses you use for your online accounts. You must not give out this information to anyone you haven’t met in real life.
Typically, fraudsters on dating sites will pretend to be military staff, aid workers, or other trustworthy professionals working remotely. They might claim they are stationed abroad. Of course, this is just an excuse. They have no intention of meeting their victims in person. You can use an online IP finder tool to check what country they’re in. Some of these finders are so accurate they’ll even tell you the exact state if the person is located in the US.
Be suspicious if they seem to be in your time zone, but say they’re in a distant country or even on a different continent. Granted, few scammers are so naïve as not to take time zone differences into account, but you never know.
A scammer will try to lure you away from the safety of the dating site to another, less secure platform, such as IM or email. While it’s normal to expand your conversations to other forms of communication over time, you should never give someone your email or phone number. This can expose your personal information to a risk of breach, among others.
Still, this doesn’t mean you should limit your interaction to the dating app forever. You can use an IM app or an alternate email address that’s not linked to sensitive personal details.
A romance scammer will make a lot of seemingly sincere compliments. As they get to know you, they’ll start to understand what you want to hear. They might even send you a gift and share their “deepest secrets” with you to gain your trust.
Cybercriminals have been known to send their victims laptops, cell phones, or other valuable presents. However, you will not get to keep them! Eventually, they’ll ask you to send the items back. Alternatively, they might also send you money and ask you to transfer it to another bank account. This can usually be traced to money laundering.
Finally, you should watch for inconsistencies in their stories, tall tales, and avoidance of personal questions. If they claim to be based in the US or another English-speaking country but demonstrate poor grammar and spelling, that should alert you. You keep asking them to video chat, but their camera never seems to be working, and they just can’t find the time to get it fixed. The truth is that the scammer doesn’t want to be recognized.
Don’t share photos or videos with someone you met online, especially if you haven’t met in real life yet. When you do plan to meet them, it is important to tell someone where and with whom you’re going.
The prevalence of romance scams will continue to increase as lockdowns around the world continue. By running a background check, you can stop any scammer in his tracks. Above all, you should also be suspicious of someone who wants to connect very quickly and asks many personal questions.