Online Dating: Is Someone Trying to Con Me?
According to research conducted by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, in the UK alone, there were around 3,889 victims of online dating fraud last year, losing a combined total of £39 million. Known as "Romance Fraud," it is quickly becoming one of the most popular scams worldwide with around 350 incidents a month reported in the UK according to Action Fraud.
Is Everyone Online a Con Artist?
No, most online dating profiles are genuine people, but there are an increasing number of fake ones with very sinister people behind them.
If you want to avoid being scammed, the first thing you need to do is recognize the behavior of a Romance Fraudster (RF). Knowing how they think and behave will help you stay safer online.
What Does a Romance Fraudster Want From Me?
Money, an RF wants your money, or your personal information so they can get to your money. They want you to feel comfortable enough with them and trust them enough to hand over your money willingly. Ideally they want you to do this without them having to ask, not only would asking arouse your suspicions, but if they ever did get caught, the fact that you handed your money over voluntarily will work massively in their favor.
How Will They Get My Money?
You will hand it over to them. They manipulate, charm and lie their way into your life, all the time grooming you into believing that they are someone genuine, kind and caring, when the only caring person in the "relationship" is you. They do this in many ways, firstly by studying your profile, looking your name up online and learning as much as they can about you. They will find out your interests, and pretend to have the same interests in order to create a connection. RFs are a lot more psychologically aware than people want to believe, they can sense loneliness in a person and will exploit that to their full advantage. They will appeal to your need for companionship and a future with someone. At first they will appear charming, polite and not do anything to even remotely arouse your suspicion.
What Did I Do to Them?
Nothing, the only thing you are guilty of is having money and a caring personality.
Am I Stupid for Being Scammed?
No, it has nothing to do with your intelligence. Some highly intelligent people have been the victims of con artists and romance fraudsters. It is about awareness, and trusting. If you are not aware of how RFs operate, then you are much more vulnerable than someone who is aware. Also if someone senses that you are a trusting person, they will go in for the kill.
Will I Get My Money Back?
Basically, no, the police can help investigate and even arrest the RF, but the chances of you actually getting any money back are very slim.
How to Avoid Being Scammed
By Being vigilant and aware of the possibility that someone you are talking to is a con artist. It is a sad situation, but I believe when it comes to online dating, this is the first thing you need to rule out. And whilst there are no hard and fast rules for how a romance fraudster will act, they do all tend to have a similar basic pattern of behavior you need to be aware of.
Are they too charming? It might sound like an odd thing to say but there is such a thing as too much charm. Are they bombarding you with messages of how good looking and wonderful you are? There is nothing wrong with saying it, but an RF will tell you this all the time. They are counting on you being overwhelmed by their charm and flattery.
Is It Too Good To Be True?
Is everything a little bit too convenient? Do they have the same moral outlook, religious views and tastes in music? And as well as that they just happen to be filthy rich? It may sound like a cliche, but if sounds too good to be true then it probably is.
Are You Being Realistic?
Or are you being gullible? Do they honestly work for MI5? And if they did, they surely shouldn't be telling a complete stranger about it as this would be a MASSIVE breach of security. People see what they want to see, and this is what an RF is counting on, so even if you have the slightest doubt, the tiniest reservation in the farthest corner of your mind, you need to investigate it.
Are They a Bit Full On?
Is it too much too soon? Are they making grand plans for you to spend the rest of your lives together in a tropical paradise when you haven't even met? And if they are, why? You don't know each other, normal people don't arrange for these things after a few conversations.
Are They Consistent?
Look for inconsistencies in their stories and things that they are telling you about themselves. They may slip up, but if you are not looking out for it, then you won't notice it.
Do They Have Pictures?
Whilst they won't be stupid enough to use a genuine photo of themselves, they will have taken one from somewhere online, use Google image search and do a bit of digging to find out if that picture matches the name they have given you.
Why Are They Telling a Stranger About Their Finances?
Is this something that you would do? Would you discuss the innermost details of your financial situation with a total stranger? No? Then you have to ask yourself why they are doing it.
How to Stay Safe Online
* Never, ever under any circumstances send money to someone you haven't met.
* Try not to post too much personal information on social media that could give away a lot about your lifestyle and finances.
* Just because time has passed doesn't mean they're not trying to scam you
* Don't get sucked in to a sob story. Whilst it may be very sad, it is not up to you to deal with it.
* Stay in the chatroom of the dating site for as long as possible — these places are moderated and if you suspect something it will be easier for them to take action
* Ask someone if something doesn't seem right, they will have a little bit more distance than you which can give them a different perspective.
It's Not Everyone
What I don't want you to do is assume everyone you talk to online is a romance fraudster, but what I do want you to do is keep your guard up and channel your inner detective if you think something seems suspicious.