Valentine’s Day tends to make our hearts think of love and for those still looking for that elusive beast, on-line dating sites can provide a way to help Cupid out a little. I’ve known many who’ve successfully found a match on those sites (me included) but it’s wise to be careful when testing out the waters.
Every year, thousands of people fall for on-line scammers from a variety of sources including dating sites and social media. These thieves are typically from overseas and have perfected their art pretty well. Their goal is simple: they want money and will lie without boundaries in order to get it. Luckily, there are ways to spot them if you’re a little savvy. Below are some tips and red flags to look for if you’re delving into the on-line dating game.
- Only one picture in their profile– The scammers steal pictures from the internet. Doing that limits the number of photos they can access since they avoid celebrities. Only having one profile picture in their gallery is a red flag. Exception: If the picture is absolutely horrible and was taken with a cell phone while looking in the bathroom mirror, it’s probably legit. I mean, who would steal that?
- Using the word “Dear” – Anyone who starts with “Hello Dear,” or any variation of that is most likely a scammer. Evidently these people overseas don’t realize that Americans haven’t used the word “Dear” to refer to someone since the 1940s. Exception: If they use it in a proper salutation, as in “Dear John,” but even that is kind of weird.
- Improper syntax or grammar– The overseas scammers usually have trouble with English. They’ll use odd phrases or sentence structure when responding to messages. Their profiles are typically pretty good as they take more time and get help with those, but when they get to the point where they have to interact quickly to messages, things can fall apart. One man told me he’d like my phone number because, it would be “Very much more easier” to talk. Huh? Exception: Sometimes texting on their phone can cause auto-correct to do some goofy things and make someone say something they didn’t Nintendo.
- Push for phone number or private email quickly—They want to get you off platform as soon as possible so there is no evidence at the site of their scam attempts. Don’t give it to them until you are sure they’re the real deal. Exception: They’re not a scammer, but they’re a serial killer and are hiding evidence. Either way, don’t do it!
- Obviously didn’t read your profile-The scammers have standard contact statements they cut and paste into multiple messages for their first contact. They’re talking to many other people while they’re talking to you. The messages are pretty easy to spot in that they lack details that pertain to you. For example, it will likely say, “I liked your profile. You have a sweet smile and seem like someone I’d like to know better.” Exception: They’re a narcissist and really don’t care what you said in your profile.
- Remove profile or block you if you mention a scam concern—I responded to one man who’d I suspected to be a scammer, but wasn’t sure. When he asked for my phone number I told him I’d feel more comfortable with messaging for a while since there were so many scammers on the site. Not only did he not respond, he blocked me immediately.
- They usually claim to be younger than their target group—A 45 year-old male seeking women between 50 and 65? What are the odds of that? The scammers know that older women are usually lonely and have available cash. A 20 year-old woman has to borrow money for Taco Bell. She’s of no use to them. Many older women are easily flattered by the attentions of a young handsome man and will ignore the red flags. Exception: If the 45 year-old man is as ugly as a garden rake and has the same number of teeth, he might be legit.
- Claims to be a woman contacting you for her brother—Or some other close friend of hers. The picture will be a nice older lady and will pique the curiosity of the woman receiving the message enough for them to open and read it. They usually say something like, “Hello Dear” (There’s that darned Dear again) I was trying to get my brother/friend to start on-line dating and I was showing him how the sites work. He saw your profile and was intrigued, but he’s too shy to contact you. If you would email/call him at xxx-xxxx he would be so happy. I’m going to be removing my profile soon as I’ve already found someone.” Exception: None. That’s a flat out scam from Hades.
- Too good to be true—He’s handsome, wealthy, moral, has a lot in common with you, looking for a special someone…right. Exception: There are some of those out there, but if they have any of the other warning signs, be cautious. Perfect men are usually snatched up by perfect women who look like Barbie dolls.
- No pictures—This might not indicate a scammer, but it does increase the chances he’s married and doesn’t want his wife’s friends to tell her they saw his profile on a dating site. These guys will offer to send a picture via private email, but…(see above) Exception: He might be well known and embarrassed to be on a dating site. However, if you decide to take that chance, make sure he introduces you to his friends and family quickly. If he’s cheating on his wife, he won’t do that.
- They claim to be American, but have an accent—I was talking to one woman who was getting ready to send an “American architect” stuck overseas, $1200 so he could fly home and fix his banking issue. She had talked to him on the phone and he had an accent, but that was because his mother was French…Really? He was born and grew up in the US, but he had a French accent? I’ve known many bilingual citizens (Including my granddaughter) and they spoke English and their second language with no accent at all. If they sound funny and they’re not Henny Youngman, be wary.
If your potential date passes the above criteria there’s another way to spot a scammer. Their story usually follows a particular pattern: They’re American and wealthy, but they’re stuck overseas (Or someplace far enough away from you that you can’t just drive and pick them up.) For some weird reason, they can’t access their vast wealth, for instance: their credit card was stolen, the bank froze their accounts due to a computer glitch, etc. They need you to lend them some money so they can get home. They’ll repay you by Tuesday, as soon as they can get to the bank and straighten things out. There are variations on this theme, of course. They might be letting you in on an investment opportunity that’s going to make you rich, or they have a child that needs surgery and they don’t know what to do…whatever. The point is, they present a need for cash. If they’re really good, they never ask for it directly. They hint around hoping the woman offers to help them. They might even half-heartedly refuse the help at first. “I don’t want to take your money. Let me try once more to get this mess straightened out and if I can’t, I’ll call/text you back.”
The things you have to remember are:
- The man in the picture is NOT the man you’re talking to.
- He’s talking to several other women too. He’s most likely overseas, sitting at a computer, chatting up many women.
- These are often done in office like settings with several scammers working together.
- They will lie, and they’re good at what they do.
- Never, ever, ever send cash, give credit card or social security numbers, or anything they can use to get money out of you.
While it is possible to find good matches on these sites – I have many friends who’ve found spouses on them- you must be cautious. A “real” contact will understand that and won’t pressure you to do more than you’re comfortable with.
Good luck and be careful!