A Sweetheart of a Scam: Online Dating Fraud

Online dating can be complicated. It entails sifting through loads of profiles, getting a dialogue going, deciding if you want to meet, going on a date, and eventually figuring out if you’re actually compatible.

Now to make the process even trickier, you also need to take precautions against online dating fraud.

Online criminalsonline-dating-scam use dating sites to take advantage of those vulnerable and looking for love. The FBI says that although the most common targets are women over 40 who are divorced, widowed, and/or disabled, every age and demographic can be
at risk.





To protect yourself against a con artist, understand the warning signs. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), be on high alert if your
cyber suitor:

  • Wants to leave the dating site immediately and use personal e-mail or instant messaging to communicate.
  • Professes love right away.
  • Claims to be from the United States but is traveling or working overseas or on military service.
  • Says he or she will visit, but cancels at the last minute because of some traumatic event or a business deal gone sour.
  • Asks for money for a variety of reasons, such as after getting mugged or injured.
  • Requests you to wire money or to cash a check or money order and send money back or to a third person.

According to AARP, to guard against becoming a victim of an online dating scam, follow these precautionary tips:

  • Don’t provide your last name, address, or where you work until you’ve met. Be wary of a suitor who asks for this information too quickly.
  • If using a mobile app, turn off your location settings so cons can’t find your location.
  • Because scammers steal people’s photos and assume their identities, use Google’s “search by image” feature to see if the photo shows up in other places online with different names.
  • Verify your suitor is real by doing an online search of their claims on social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
  • Cut and paste their e-mail into a Web browser to see if the words come up verbatim on romance scam sites.

If you think you’re dealing with a scammer, report him or her to both the dating service and the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

For more information on protecting yourself from online dating scams, visit the FTC’s website at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0004-online-dating-scams and the AARP website at www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2015/avoid-romance-scams.html.

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