pexels gustavo fring 4148984From traditional dating to online dating

The hectic world in which we live make it hard for people to make time to find a partner. People are torn between building a career, commuting to their jobs, earning the money to pay their bills. Some people have already had previous relationship and a percentage have children to look after. Some people are caretakers for a relative. On top that and everything, the rising cost of life has made it even more difficult and many people have little energy left after work and caring responsibilities to socialize.

Online dating sites and apps

The advent of the Internet has brought a number of opportunity to the tired and busy mind. Among them, online dating sites and mobile dating apps have made their mark as the easy way of connecting without the burden, time and cost of commuting. Hopefuls set their profile up and browse the possible interests according to their preferences. Internet dating apps either on website or on your smartphone can help them meet new people from the safety and comfort of their homes.

Online dating scams

With every new opportunity, comes a set of threats and internet dating apps are no exception to that rule. The popularity of internet dating has brought with it an emergence in online romance scams, attracting scammers and con artists of all sorts. As a result, many people are afraid to try online dating. Many who fear becoming a target of these fraudsters believe that avoiding online dating altogether will help them evading the internet dating scammers. Worrying about being scammed is perfectly understandable. However, it is possible to overcome online dating scams by following a few simple steps.

Safely dating online Internet dating apps - Internet dating scams - Private investigations

If you want to start a safe online dating journey, this post is for you. We explain the most common dating app scams and share tips on avoiding them. After reading this post, you will feel safer in the online dating space, and hopefully, you’ll know how to identify this type of crime.

Preventing online dating scams requires awareness of the most common scams.

The majority of romance scam artists follow a similar pattern. The following paragraphs will list some of the most common online dating scams we have identified for you.

Fake profiles

In order to appear more attractive, users create fake profiles with stolen photos on dating sites. The scammer puts a lot of effort into making their profiles appear realistic and creating a fake identity. They either use photos from stock photos or worse, use someone else’s identity to lure their victims. There is a whole scamming type that use soldier’s identities. Military romance scams are so common that the US army has released a complete guide on how to avoid them1.

Establishing emotional connectionOnline dating apps - Internet dating apps - Internet dating scams

Scammers often express romantic feelings early to get at their victims. They build an emotional connection with the victim by sweet-talking and sharing personal details. The standard pattern for such scams is that they find an excuse why they cannot meet. In the case of military romance, they eventually get deployed. Cementing an emotional bond means that they can now start to ask for specific behaviour, more personal information (smell identity theft) and at some point for financial information, from the victim they have now emotionally got under their thumbs.

Typically, scammers will express their attachment too soon so they can then emotionally blackmail you into doing things to express or prove your love. When they do their work well, they don’t even have to ask, they will just mention their financial needs, or something they really want, or a requirement for their lives or job that they cannot afford, without necessarily telling you to help. Either way, these are clear signs of a scam.

Contacting you outside the platform

Contacting you outside of the dating platform immediately is another typical scammer behavior, Scammers will contact you immediately after matching and begin communicating with you. If a suspicious dating profile insists on communicating on WhatsApp or Google Meet, they are likely scammers. But those who play a longer-term con, will likely create the emotional connection first, so that when they want to contact you outside of the platform, you are no longer on your guards. If someone you have never met and have been in contact with for a long time online only wants to meet, take your precautions.

Intimate videos or photos of you

Scammers can fool the victim into participating in intimate acts through video or sharing intimate photos, only to threaten them afterward with making the material public. At the back of the emotional relationship they created, they will require a video chat. The scammer persuades the victim to engage in intimate activities but finds excuses to turn off their own camera. They will record the activity and blackmail the victim, demanding money so they won’t share the video online.

Financial requests

While they will not show themselves, scammers will continue the communication but start targeting you financially. The person will then create an elaborate story and ask for money or gift cards. Or they might ask you to join a website or purchase services. At the same time, they will postpone seeing you and come up with various excuses. At this stage, the victim believes the story is real and it might take them a long time to discover that they have been scammed. Since, they will always try to find an excuse to avoid meeting face to face, they might use the distance as an excuse; some will step forward and ask you to send them money for their flight to your state. Others may just ask you for access to your financial information and credit card details.

Stealing sensitive information

Fake dating sites ask you to fill in sensitive details to create a profile. They can ask you to fill in financial information or answers to the most common security questions, such as the name of your first teacher. However, stealing sensitive information can happen on legit dating sites too. The victim receives a message from a user claiming they want to verify them. Online romance scammers ask the victim to fill out a questionnaire for this purpose, which requires personal data. Such behavior is a fraud since dating sites don’t perform this type of verification check.

We spoke of financial requests before. While it might seem obvious to not share your financial information with a stranger online, even if you think you have an emotional connection with them, there are indirect ways that scammers asks for these as you will see next in phishing scams.

Phishing scams

Online dating sites have phishing scams similar to email phishing. The user can send you a link to their photo, but when you open it, your device gets infected with malware. Or they will provide a link to their social media profiles. The link directs you to a website that looks like social media site but steals your credentials when you try to sign in. Phishing websites mimic legitimate websites but contain errors in the URL address. OR they provide a shortened link in order to hide the real URL.

Some ways of avoiding common scams

The easiest place to start is by verifying an individual’s existence. The information is on their online dating page. Scammers can put a lot of work into making their online profiles appear legitimate, but anyone can spot a phony profile with a few easy checks. Dating scammers frequently use phony portraits of beautiful people on their profiles. They will often not use live chats and will only have a few profile pictures. In order to see if the profile photos are used elsewhere, you can also perform a search using the reverse image on them. Dating services should not transfer communication to social media networks. To avoid identity theft, avoid clicking on any links in the profile’s bio or communication. Never send money or disclose private data to someone you met online.

The role of private investigations in finding the truth about online dating individuals

Online searches will not help you find the truth, and your online date may readily conceal information from you. If you decide to proceed with a relationship, private investigators can perform background checks to learn the truth about your companion. These background checks provide thorough information about criminal histories, including work and money background. These are the types of search that you can request to ascertain your interlocutor’s identity and make sure that they are who they say they are before engaging yourself deeper into a relationship. Make sure you choose insured and licensed private investigators such as Harter PI who is knowledgeable in the domain of online dating investigations.

Editor’s notes:

1. The US military website has several articles that acknowledge and help to combat the use of military or army references to scam people on and offline. These include, to name but a few, an article where the Criminal Investigation Command (CID) warns people about Internet scams, an article about the use of soldier identities for romance scams, this article that raises individuals’ awareness about criminals who use romance, patriotism to steal money. Because these scams go beyond online dating sites, in this article, army stresses caution and education to combat social media scammers.