By Praveen Kannan and Anna Strokolyst The Hotspot Shield team believes the internet should be open and secure …
Looking for a date this Valentine’s Day? If so, beware, because this is the time of year when you’re most likely to fall victim to an online dating scam.
Here’s how to protect yourself.
Online dating scams are out there, and they target people who are looking for love. These people try to defraud the romance-seekers and play with their emotions, eventually hoping for a financial windfall. In most cases, these scams occur via social media or email, but they can also happen on popular dating sites.
Online dating scams often target people who are older as they are less tech-savvy. However, scammers won’t skip an opportunity to target someone younger if they think they can get away with it. Generally, once contact is made, the relationship begins to develop over the phone or online.
Romance scammers focus on making the victim fall for them. They know exactly what the person desperate for love wants to hear. Once they start getting “serious,” the scammer will ask for money. This cash might be for a plane ticket to come and visit, or maybe it’s because of a made-up illness, or even money for legal issues.
As you might imagine, once the scammer gets the cash, they disappear. The simplest tip to avoid becoming a victim of an online dating scam is to not send money to a person you’ve never met; someone who really cares for you would never put you in a difficult financial situation.
At this point, you’re probably thinking “how could anyone ever fall for this.”
They do, though — all the time.
It’s easy to sit here now and assume it would never happen to you. But emotion clouds judgment, and it is, in fact, easy for humans to get emotionally attached to someone they’ve never met.
You may have seen MTV’s hit show “Catfished”; if you have, you’ll notice how common an online dating scam really is (for all ages, both male and female). In fact, in the United States, the average victim of a dating scam lost more than $15,000. In total, online dating scams cost victims in the U.S. $187 million each year.
How to avoid an online dating scam
Here are seven telltale signs that you’re being scammed:
- They want you to immediately leave the dating site and use personal text, email, or messaging accounts.
- They claim to be from the U.S. but say they are currently deployed or overseas.
- They ask for money quickly in the relationship.
- They talk about
meetingbut then give sob stories about how they don’t have enough money,or their plans fall through because of cash flow.
- They have a major expense, like medication, a hospital stay, or important travel.
- They will only talk on the phone, not via a video call.
- They express their love very quickly.
Staying safe while online dating
If you are looking for love online, keep these safety tips in mind:
- Always put safety first. Don’t put anything personal on your dating profile, such as your address, where you work, or your phone number.
- Take time to really get to know someone before planning on meeting or moving the relationship offline.
- Research the person’s name and details. Look for social media accounts. If you don’t find anything, this is a potential red flag.
- Never wire any money to anyone you have only met on a dating site.
- Stay wary. Sometimes an online dating scam can last many years before the fraudster asks for money. They build your trust so you’re more likely to fall for the scam.
Unfortunately, many of these online dating scams are never reported because the victim is too embarrassed. But, keep in mind that these scammers have been doing this for many years, and they are experts at tricking innocent people.