Millions of people use online dating sites and apps around the world. There have also been numerous success stories of people finding love and companionship online. Along with the successes, there are also online dating scams, which are on the rise.
Online dating scams, also known as romance scams or romance fraud, occur when a person believes they have made a connection or match through an online dating site or app – but the person they are speaking with is a scammer with a fake profile. The scammer manipulates or grooms the other person over time in order to gain their trust – ultimately so that they can either ask for money or obtain enough personal information about them to steal their identity.
While anyone can become a victim of a romance scam, older people frequently suffer a greater financial loss, according to experts at EzChargeback. Scammers target the elderly because they are more likely to have assets to steal, such as retirement funds or homes. It is estimated that approximately two-thirds of romance fraud victims are women. Online dating scams are especially cruel because they prey on people’s emotions. This overview discusses some of the common online dating scams
What Are The Most Common Online Dating Scams?
The majority of dating scams begin innocently enough. Scammers may create fake profiles that appear as appealing as possible and then wait for victims to contact them and start a conversation. They may also contact victims directly, claiming common interests or a distant, mutual connection. Once a scammer has you hooked, the possibilities are endless, but here are a few of the most common:
Military Romance Scams
Fraudsters may use the name and likeness of an actual soldier in military romance scams, or they may create an entirely fake profile. They send out legitimate-looking messages, possibly introducing themselves as nearing the end of their careers, often with older children, and usually widowed in tragic circumstances. Military jargon, titles, and base locations abound in the messages, making them sound impressive. They begin to form an emotional bond, but before physical introductions can take place, the “soldier” is deployed.
Then there are requests for money, perhaps to set up a reliable internet connection, pay for flights home, or supplement ostensibly limited military medical coverage or retirement planning.
In many cases, these con artists collaborate with one or more accomplices who pose as doctors or lawyers in order to extract a consistent stream of money. Military romance scams can last months or even years before victims become suspicious.
Military romance scams are so common that the United States Army has created a detailed fact sheet on spotting romance scammers posing as American soldiers stationed abroad, which you can read here.
Intimate Activity Scams
Victims are contacted by potential suitors from other countries and “friended” on various social media sites. After a lengthy courtship, the scammer requests that the victim connect with them via webcam so they can chat. Although the fraudster’s webcam is mysteriously broken, they lavish praise on their victim and, through a combination of flattery and persistence, persuade their “partner” to partially undress or perform other intimate acts. After that, the scammer reveals their true identity. They claim to have made a video recording and threaten to share it with mutual social media friends or post it online if the victim does not send money. Experts at EzChargeback suggest that once the victim agrees, the cycle begins, with the demands increasing until the victim finally refuses.
Fake Dating Sites
Scam dating sites are a slightly different proposition than regular scam websites in that they claim to offer legitimate meetups but are either severely underpopulated or overrun with scammers. Sites that ask you to create a profile in order to mine your information are a common scam. Look out for sign-up questionnaires that are light on dating details but heavy on financial questions, or that request information such as your mother’s maiden name or your first school (i.e. answers to common security questions).
Some free online dating sites may appear legitimate at first, but once you’ve been a member for a while, they’ll reveal their true colors.
You may be offered a free premium membership or some other exclusive benefit in exchange for completing a survey that contains questions similar to those used in banking. No matter what incentives you are offered, you should never reveal any information that can be used to access private or financial details. Also, keep an eye out for an increase in interest soon after you’ve created your profile. If your profile only has a few lines of text, no photo, and no set preferences, but you start receiving messages from potential suitors, you’ve probably come across dating site fraud.
In this stage, the scammer asks the victim to send their contact information in exchange for intimate photos of the scammer. Experts at EzChargeback revealed that in reality the scammer is looking for personal information, or it could be a fraudulent bot operation that exploits emotion and excitement (via the offer of revealing photos) to gain access to the victim’s data, which can then be used for financial fraud.
This is when the con artist claims they must marry in order to inherit millions of dollars in gold left by a father, uncle, or grandfather. Marriage is said to be a requirement of the male relative’s will. A young woman contacts the victim and informs her that she is unable to remove the gold from her country due to a lack of funds.
Once the scammer has established a rapport with their victim, they will ask for money to assist them in bringing the gold into the victim’s country. The scammer offers to fly to the victim’s country to prove their legitimacy, and the victim pays for the flight. Needless to say, the con artist never appears.