More people keep looking for love on the internet.
Most people between the ages of 50 and 64 years use online dating services.
Apart from these people, scammers are also lurking around online dating platforms, looking for who to dupe.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, about 15,000 people lost more than $230 million in 2016.
One thing you can learn from these statistics is that meeting new people online has its risks.
The best way to protect yourself or your loved one is to be wise.
Internet scammers are good at what they do.
They have devised crafty means to make you fall for their stories.
They also have different places where they find their targets.
So, it important to know the red flags and adopt some defensive measures that will keep you safe.
Profile of an Online Romance Scammer
Before we consider how you can protect yourself from dating scammers, we must talk about what the profile of an online romance scammer looks like.
Most scammers operate outside the US.
According to a study published by HuffPost, most of the scammers live in Nigeria and Ghana.
However, an increasing number are found among West African immigrants in Malaysia, Canada, and Britain.
Most of them are college students with low earnings looking for additional cash.
These fraudsters (also known as Yahoo Yahoo in Nigeria) have become very rich with multiple houses, expensive jewelry, and luxury cars; all obtained from the money made from their criminal acts.
Online romance scammers can make this kind of money because they have multiple victims they target at once.
HuffPost once cited a case in which one scammer was operating 25 romance scams simultaneously, parading themselves as both men and women.
How To Protect Yourself
1. Find out more about the person
When you meet someone for the first time online, do some digging to see if they are who they said they are.
Type their name into a search engine to see the results that pop up.
The results you see must align with what they claim to be in their social media profiles.
If you’re chatting with someone via email, check out their address using RomanceScams.org.
This site has a list of email addresses that belong to scammers.
2. Run an image search
Copy the person’s profile photos and run them through TinEye, Google Images, and other reverse-image search engines.
If you see the same photo with a different name or details, then it was stolen from the source.
3. Meet with the person in real life
If the person you just met is serious about your relationship, he will be interested in meeting you in person.
If you’ve been chatting for a few months but you have never met in real life, then your ‘sweetheart’ is hiding something.
If you have tried to meet the person and he keeps coming up with excuses, then you should be suspicious.
4. Open up to your loved ones
If you’re feeling suspicious of an online relationship (especially if the other party has asked for money), seek advice from those you trust.
Narrate the whole situation to the person and ask them if the situation seems suspicious to them.
Ensure you choose someone that is not aware of your romance and is not emotionally involved in it.
Be mindful of anyone that tells you not to tell others about them.
5. Don’t send intimate photos
Never share intimate images (such as sex videos or nude images) with someone you have not met in real life.
You may think those files are private, however, your ‘sweetheart’ can use them to blackmail you later.
6. Don’t send money
If an online love interest asks for money, it’s most likely a scam.
You may never see the money again even if the person promises to pay it back.
If you are determined to send money to someone you met on a dating site, ensure you get a loan agreement in writing to protect yourself.
You should do this agreement whenever you lend people money.
However, if the other party is a scammer, using a false name and identity, it may not be possible to enforce this agreement.
7. Don’t rush into a relationship
Don’t be in a haste to jump into a relationship with someone you just met online.
Spend some time to know the person.
Ask lots of questions to understand who the person is.
Analyze the person’s profile and find out if the person is using his or her real names and pictures on their profiles.
8. Don’t leave the dating site
Continue chatting with the person on the dating site until you are assured that the person is legit.
If you decide to meet in person, ensure you do so in a public place and let a third party know where you are going.
If you have been looking for love online (or if you’ve already found love online), you may be discouraged by the news of online romance scams.
The more you learn about these forms of scams, the easier it will be for you to think that someone that shows interest in you on the internet is after your money.
After some time, you may feel like deleting all your online dating profiles, not accepting new friend requests, and stop connecting with new people on the internet.
However, you don’t need to go to this extent.
It’s good that you’re cautious about those you come across online, but you also need to realize that everyone is not a scammer.
If someone says he’s interested in you because you have similar interests, there’s a high probability that it’s true.
As long as you adhere to the tips discussed in this article, such as carrying out a background check on the person’s profile and meeting with the person in real life, there is nothing wrong with finding love online.
Just like true love, online romance scams are a fact of life.