ROMANCE SCAMS: Trish Rounsaville shares her thoughts on how to identify a Romance Scam

Dating Site Scams & How To Avoid Them

Many single adults today are turning to the Internet and dating sites. Some hope they find the love of their life, and yet others are just looking for someone to hang out with and have fun. In fact, it is claimed that about 20% of all relationships start online these days, and about 2% of these relationships end up in marriage. Where are these couples finding one another?

These days there are many ways to find relationships online, including social media websites, and the many different dating sites that are available. However, before you start looking for a relationship online you should be aware that just like in your offline life, talking to someone online does not guarantee that they are who they claim to be. Unfortunately, dating site scams, often referred to as ‘sweetheart scams,’ are becoming commonplace.

Warning Signs to Watch Out For:

While not all dating site scams are the same, there are a few warning signs you can look for:

  • A scammer will often have a picture on their profile, but often these pictures aren’t of them. There of models from magazines or modeling sites. If the picture looks familiar, do a little research and see if you can find it somewhere else on the Internet.
  • Dating site scammers will usually want to steer you away from the dating sites message system quickly and will start asking for your personal e mail address, or instant messenger information very early on in the relationship. Scammers may also give you their email address and ask you to start using that. Be careful, believe it or not scammers often build and share email lists. Because of this you should keep your anti-spyware, anti-virus and anti-malware software turned on and up to date.
  • The dating site scammer will also begin declaring their ‘love’ for you very early on. Within one or two messages or e-mail they may begin to call you darling, sweetheart, my love, or other terms of endearment. They may also use religion to try and ‘trap you,’ telling you they are God fearing, and that they feel that God has brought you together.
  • Often, but not always a dating site scammer will tell you they are American but living and working elsewhere. They may also say they will be coming home in a month or two, and are ready to meet you as soon as they can.
  • Eventually, and sometimes within just a few e-mails or IM’s, the conversation will turn to money. The dating site scammer is having trouble cashing their paycheck, or they may have a fantastic job opportunity for you which involves cashing money orders or checks and then sending them out of the country via Western Union (this one was actually tried on me). Sometimes it will take a little longer, and they won’t begin to ask for money until you are ready to meet, and then they’ll need help with their airfare, passport, or visa.
  • While it is claimed that most dating site scams are linked to Russian women, Nigeria or other parts of Africa, and have women trying to scam men, I can tell you from experience that this is not always the case.

How to Protect Yourself From Dating Site Scams

It is claimed that one in ten members of dating sites are actually scammers and out to take your money. However, there are ways you can protect yourself and still use these sites to find a partner or close friend. Know what to look for with these quick tips:

  • If they ask you for personal information very early on, take that as a red flag. Don’t give them your email address until you are very sure that you are not in the middle of a scam. As I stated before, dating site scammers keep lists. Usually one list of people that likely can be scammed, and one list of people to stay away from. They also share these lists with other scammers.
  • There is a saying ‘if it looks too good to be true it probably is.’ This is something to keep in mind. ‘m not saying that everyone who uses dating sites are short, fat, and ugly. If the photo of the person you are talking to looks professional, or they look like a model, do a little research. Two great websites you can try out are anti-scam and Russian Women Blacklist. Both of these websites have an online list of pictures, aliases, and information about known scammers.
  • If the conversation turns to money or their hardships, again take this as a red flag. While talking about money is usually a part of life, you should be leery if you begin to hear about their problems or they begin to request money early on in the relationship. These are signs that they are likely trying to scam you.

What do you do if You Believe You May Be a Victim of a Dating Site Scam?

The first thing to do is to stop all contact with the suspected scammer. Quite often if you ignore their attempts they will quickly put you on the ‘do not contact list’ and move on to someone else.

You should also report them to the dating site you are using. All sites know this happens, and all sites have some form of reporting procedure.

The FBI have a special Internet Crime Complaint Center called IC3, you can file a complaint there, but remember that they receive many complaints daily so you may never hear back from them. There are also yahoo groups, and anti scam websites you can contact. You can find a list of places to go for help, support, and assistance here.

My Personal Experiences

As I stated earlier I am single, and yes, I use dating sites. I’m shy, and because of that I find that meeting and getting to know people online is sometimes easier for me. I also decided to write this article because I have dealt with two dating site scammers that I am sure of, and possibly a few more I wasn’t aware of.

My first experience, and the one that opened my eyes to this sort of problem, was one of the first people I met on a dating site. He claimed he worked for the UN in Afghanistan. He also said that he was a dual citizen of the U.K. and U.S.A., and that his home was in Texas. No family; parents had both passed away and he was looking for the love of his life. We talked for about a week before he was declaring his undying love for me, and then he told me about this amazing job opportunity with the U.N.

This so called “great job opportunity,” involved using my bank account to receive bank wires and checks, and then sending the money via Western Union to the U.N. to help build churches in Africa. This of course sent up huge red flags for me, because surely the U.N. had their own bank accounts and wouldn’t be using Western Union and private citizens to send and receive any kind of money. I immediately stopped all correspondence and reported him to the site I was using.

The second time it happened to me was by a man that claimed he was a U.S. citizen working in the U.K. He was due home in a month he said. I didn’t give him a chance to talk about money though, because after just a few days, like the other guy, he began declaring his love for me. He also said that he was ready to start his life with me. I knew what was coming so I again stopped all correspondence and reported him to the dating site as a potential scammer.

I must have now made it on their ‘do not contact’ list, as I have not had any experiences like that in the last few months, and I do still use dating sites. I am just much more careful.

Don’t Let This Cause You to Avoid Dating Online

To sum all of this up, dating sites are fantastic, and a great way to meet new friends. If you are very lucky, you may even meet the love of your life. I know many couples who met online through dating sites, social media, or online games and they are now very happily married. It does happen, not everyone is a dating site scam artist. But, as with anything in life, you have to be careful and learn to recognize the warning signs. You also need to know how to react if you believe you are a potential victim.

My advice would be to never send anyone money that you have met anywhere on the Internet unless you are 200% sure they are genuine. While most dating scams happen quickly, there are a few scammers who are extremely patient. In fact, there have been cases where some scammers have continued an online relationship for months, or even years, before they began to ask for money.


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