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Online Dating Scams: Don’t Get Caught

By Brittany Lyons

For many busy people, online dating has become a normal or even preferred method for meeting potential love matches, and it’s easy to see why it’s so popular. Singles are often bombarded with stories of success featuring married couples who met online, and continue to live happily ever after, so they don’t see the possible harm. However, because of the anonymity offered by the Internet, it’s easy for predators and scammers alike to misrepresent themselves. Both are impossible to identify 100% of the time, which is why it’s best to avoid online dating. But if you do choose to try it out, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself from scammers. If you aren’t cautious, the emotional and financial costs could be steep.

Take the case of Emily (name changed to protect the innocent), a 53-year-old woman from New York. Emily did many things online—telecommuted, shopped, even educated herself through an online PhD program. When she decided it was time to get back onto the dating scene, it was only natural that she would turn to a dating website. Since she was only testing it out, she decided to start with a free one, to see how she liked it. And that was how she met Charlie.

He claimed to be a soldier, stationed overseas in Afghanistan, and showed her several pictures of himself in uniform and in the field. She believed she had finally met the perfect man, and their relationship blossomed steadily over the course of six months. Charlie talked to her regularly through emails and chat messages, as his position in the military limited his access to other forms of communication, and often had flowers or small presents delivered to her house. As his return home drew closer, however, he began to complain of banking troubles, saying that local banks wouldn’t accept his paychecks. Wanting to help, Emily agreed to cash the checks for him and wire the money.

This happened several times, always accompanied by a heartfelt thanks. Yet when the checks didn’t clear, Emily began to get suspicious. At first “Charlie” assured her that they just took a while sometimes, and they would come through soon, but eventually the jig was up. Ultimately, he scammed her out of $25,000 over the course of six months, using her love for him and her patriotic desire to help a soldier against her. Emily was the victim of an online dating scam.

Like Charlie, potential scammers use a wide range of methods to try to win your trust, and if Emily had known about these tactics she may have recognized the scam sooner. There were several red flags in Charlie’s behavior, and all of them are things that can be double-checked. Here’s how.

The first thing Emily could have done to protect herself came before she even met Charlie. While it is possible to meet genuine people online, you should be very cautious about it. If you do decide to use an online dating site, stay away from the free ones. Scammers are less likely to target pay sites because they need a credit card to sign up, which leaves a paper trail and makes them easy to track down. Secondly, you should always check that the dating site you use runs their members through a sex offender database, such as RSO SAFE from SSP Blue. This is usually fairly easy to figure out, as the site will include this in their member agreement language.

The second step came when Charlie sent Emily the photos. It’s easy to find photos online, so many dating scammers steal photos from sources like Facebook or MySpace to create a fake identity. Posing as a military member who is currently deployed overseas (or, alternately, as a businessman or journalist stationed in the field) is quite common, as it gives the scammer an excuse to avoid meeting in person. To test if the pictures are genuine, try a reverse image search to see where else the pictures have been posted, and under what name. This technology is new, and today works mostly with commercial images, but hopefully it will get better.

Next, most scammers will try to transition to email or online text chat soon after making contact, because dating sites will keep track of user’s correspondence and may flag them if they are conducting several relationships at once. To protect against this, Emily could have kept her communication to the tools provided on the website. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to avoid communicating through personal email and text until you meet in person, in a public place. If your match is overseas, ask for a video chat to see the person’s face. Phone calls do not count. Anyone with access to email and chat messaging has access to Skype, which is free to use and easy to install. If they do not have a webcam, direct them to an Internet cafe in the area, as most computers there do. If Emily had done this, she would have seen that the man speaking did not match the pictures.

All of these things may seem like overkill, but if the person courting you is real, he or she should understand your caution—and exercise it themselves. The process of checking one another’s credentials at the outset of the relationship is vital, because once they have gained your trust, the real scam begins.

To further protect yourself, keep this in mind: wire transfers are a key tool for scammers because they are like sending cash—very hard to trace, leaving you with no means of tracking your money down. Another common trick involves asking you to cash a check or money order that has been “washed” to change the value from a low amount to a high amount. When you cash it, the bank holds you liable for the money, which means that when they identify the fraud and the check bounces a few weeks later, you have to pay it back in full. The best way to guard against this is to wait a couple weeks after the check has cleared to send the money on.

Scammers may also ask you to re-ship something for them (which may be an attempt to smuggle stolen goods), or even steal your identity through viruses in emails or text messages. You should never give out your real address online or ship a package you don’t know the contents of, and always run email attachments through a virus checker.

As a general rule, any requests for money or favors, especially before meeting, are warning signs of a potential scam. Never send money to someone you have just met on an online dating site, or perform any finance-related favors. Run attachments, like pictures in emails, through a virus scanner before opening them. Demand a meeting in person, in a public place. While completely avoiding a potential scammer is difficult, using these simple steps can help you to see the problem before it starts. Don’t let your fear prevent you from looking for love, but play it safe. If you feel someone is too good to be true, they just might be.

Brittany Lyons aspires to be a psychology professor, but decided to take some time off from grad school to help people learn to navigate the academic lifestyle. She currently lives in the state of Washington, where she spends her time reading science fiction and walking her dog.

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19 Comments on "Online Dating Scams: Don’t Get Caught"

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Brittany,

Thanks for this very informative article. Welcome to LoveFraud!

I totally subscribe to your CAUTION but not only in online meetings but in all new associations.

The old saying “a fool and his money are soon parted” is totally true and when people are trying to con, scam or mooch, they show us what we want to see, and just like a magician, they distract us from what is really happening.

One of my elderly neighbors fell prey to a scam artist and sent the man money, refusing to believe it was a scam and instead thinking that his family and even the sheriff “didn’t want me to be rich”—-he is now being scammed by a woman he met in a parking lot who shows up at his house the day before his check arrives each month and leaves when the last penny is gone, only to repeat it the next month.

Thanks for the article Brittany and welcome.

I would like to post this here:

http://www.patriotledger.com/answerbook/canton/x888176234/Prosecutor-Stoughton-madam-offered-undercover-cops-sex-services

Everybody knew this place was for sex way back when. Just now they are arresting this woman who, I must say reminds me of my spath, only mine had black hair, but just as nasty looking. Her husband (yep, she’s married with a daughter no less)tried to block the view of the tv camera so they couldn’t view her, what does she do? She blew a kiss to the camera before she drove off. They kept showing it on tv in slow motion. I swear my blood pressure skyrocketed! This is why legit massage therapists get a bad rep. I hate her!

One more thing! One state trooper and a whole bunch of cops are in big trouble, along with some other “reputable”people in the town. She got a client list a mile long. The one state trooper is suspended without pay. Plus the cops went to a person’s house who reported her earlier and so did this trooper…I think they went to intimidate…hmmm…corruption.

Looks like a whole nest of spaths to me.

Dear Ana,

Boy, her picture doens’t look “happy” now does it. LOL But this kind of trash will go on forever, I can’t see it ever stopping or being “controlled.”

Arkansas just arrested 70 police officers and court employees for corruption…I guess it is just to be expected. Not just in Mexico or the third world countries, but right here at HOME.

Hi Oxy,
No,she does not look happy! Nor should she be, what a disgrace. The part that triggered me the most was when she blew the kiss to the camera, playing in slow motion..OMG! How spath like.

I bet nothing happens to these people in the end. She has a daughter and she taught cheerleading…Good lawd.

Trashy looking is right. UGH

We need to stop internalizing this experience and seeing it for what it truly is. We need to express EXTERNALLY and from my experiences, the past ten years, I am here to say that if you just stop participating in the roadshow, it ceases to exist. But, we don’t because we are so controlled and consumed by the affection “WE” have for these “IT” beings, that they use that to control and manipulate us and the whole time they are laughing under their breath what an amazing “nice” but naieve person we are. Because their original intention wasn’t to be our partner but our controller.

I could write a literal BOOK on the dangers of internet dating.
I have been a victim. I met “IT” online and that’s how he meets ALL HIS WOMEN. Or should I say ‘targets’ and ‘victims’?

We can be upset at all the other people who jump up in our face along this journey but it is THEM inspiring every single one. The ‘fault’ or the ‘blame’, or however you want to put it, for all of this lies somewhere in the middle. We were naieve, yes, but at the same time, we were being ‘victimized’ by a very unstable and mentally ill person. Sure, we can find compassion for them but where does the compassion cease and the instinct of self preservation begin?

In my case, it was the threats upon my life and the threats that still exist. It was subjecting me and my life to some of the most vile and ugly and tormenting moments I have ever lived.

It is ended. At MY command and it is in MY CONTROL.
“IT” no longer has control and I have made myself HEALTHY and STRONG and AWARE and CONFIDENT all over again, despite the 10 year intrusion of evil in my life.

It doesn’t matter how we ‘feel’ about them. They feel nothing for us. They are like amoebas. Put aside those feelings, forsake that cog diss and realize that you have a life and a brain too, as well as a heart. Put them where they belong, in the past. Bury them in thought, in the most farthest recesses of your memories because that is where we are in theirs.

Ox was absolutely right saying that the one thing you can do to make things ‘even’ is disassociating yourself with them. Do not respond how many times they try to upset you into doing so. It’s the upset and the rise they are after. I know it’s hard to ‘take it on the chin’, when they get their demon possessed tongues flapping, I know how difficult it is to refrain and abstain. But it is necessary because like Constantine has said, “when you respond, you are losing their respect.” That is the ONLY respect they observe: NO CONTACT and mean what you say and do it.

Thanks you guys ~

xxoo

Very well said, Dupey.
No response is the only thing that works because response is what they were after.

They really don’t like it when they lose that control over a situation that affects them personally. Once you get on to them, you suddenly and instantly become their ‘enemy’. They may KNOW that you love them, but that doesn’t matter to them. Nothing matters to them except for what they want. Which is all of it on THEIR TERMS no matter who they hurt in the process.

It is at this point they become unpredictable and dangerous to us. No contact is not just something you can turn on and off. Love bombing will keep you sucked into the cycle and it will never stop unless YOU take a stand and make it stop. Sure, for some reason, we ‘loved’ this person (or at least the dream they were spoon feeding us) but once you take a good look at it, it wasn’t us who were the deceitful ones and that is the key to the whole problem, isn’t it?

I am at a stage of this stalking and victimization now where he has become a dangerous person to me. And the more and more I have no engagement with him, the more I see the stalking. It has taken a while. But they always come back.
They want to love bomb you into soothing their worries…find out how close they can get to you so they can damage you all over again. That is very wonderful to them, you know – to see you upset and trying to be forthright and honest. The devil despises virtue.

I am ready for what is about to come. So totally and completely ready and I can reassure you that “I” am not going to be the loser in all of this, in the end. I could lose my life to my heart condition and be in the hereafter before I will ever be the loser in all of this. But then who said psychopaths think logically?

It’s a rough road for all of us to walk. Having to sever your right arm; the left ventricle of your heart, despite your hearts telling you different…but it is something you have to do in order to survive. Some things just weren’t meant to be. We have to learn gently to accept that. No matter how much our hearts might want something, genuinely and earnestly, doesn’t mean we will always get it.

I just want all of this ugly madness away from me now.
And I am prepared to legally do anything necessary to make that a reality.

Love to all ~ Dupey

Dupey,

Unfortunately, I made the mistake of being pushed into the corner and deciding that I held a TRUMP card….fighting my son Patrick’s parole release with an attorney….but TELLING him, making the THREAT….and I guess in a way it ultimately ended up to my advantage because the Trojan Horse psychopath realized that 1) he didn’t know where I had gone in the middle of the night when i fled my home and 2) Patrick would probably NOT get out for several more years and he didn’t want to wait around that long, so he went to “plan B” and he and my DIL decided to abscond with egg donor’s money. If they had JUST taken the money and run they’d have gotten away with it, but P-like they decided to do in son C and try to make it look like “self defense”—and that backfired on them as well…but I DO NOT recommend TELLING the psychopath what you are up to.

“Threats” to divorce them, take their money, turn them in to the police for illegal activities, or whatever “sword” you think you hold over their head may in fact, BACK FIRE ON YOU! So play your cards close to your chest, and ACT before they KNOW that you have acted.

Like our beloved Erin Brock says, lie there like a snake in the grass and WAIT until the time is right and then STRIKE. If you hiss at them and give them warning, you may find a rock crashing down on your head!

Oh yes, Ox, I completely agree.
Thanks so much. xxoo

Yes, never ‘threaten’; just do.
Do whatever it takes to keep yourself safe and healthy and happy. They may come back ‘love bombing’ and seeping with honey, milk and goo, but it is only because they are up to something…

I personally will never allow “IT” anywhere close to me ever again. I made myself explicitly clear and from now on he is being his own worse enemy.

Thanks Ox for the back up. xxoo

I finally learned my lesson about Craigslist, the free ads site, when I posted my usual “just-a-date” last summer.

First I got some very unpleasant e-mails from guys. Probably just legitimate jerks, not scammers.

But then my ad got yanked as violating “community standards.” This “community,” when I went to them, mocked me for my complaint and filled my e-mail box with so many e-mails, so fast, I had to unsubscribe to the feedback.

It was like, pop-pop-pop, roll . . . in my inbox.

I am shaken to this day. There was one legitimate answer to my ad, pleading on the “Men Seeking Women” to find that woman whose ad he found so intriguing (me). To this day, I cannot bring myself to contact him.

I wonder if some of these gangs just take over the whole Web site sometimes.

Dear Duped No More,
I meant to congratulate you on your six months of NC!!YaY for you. Keep it going girl, I know you will 🙂

(((Ana))) Thanks for the hug and wishes.
You know that’s right: ME, keeping it going. xxoo

Dupey

Duped; they are sad weirdos; they never stop, I have been in litigation for 6 years, even my father (82) states ‘it’s the only way he can keep in conatct’; they are sick, sick, sick.

Like Oxy says, I plan, and plan and plan; I also time, time and time; timing is everything as is evidence. I have unleashed the spaths worst nightmare; I take no joy, it’s exhausting boring but I have worked out the rules of the game ..exposure ..expose, expose, expose ..but only legally ..and always because they gave you the in ..otherwise ‘harassment’. So legit court stuff, nothing else. I am simply exhausted some days, but hey I will get justice for my children; and of this week the spath has been exposed ..I am now on high alert. I take no pleasure in this.

((movingon)) I am so sorry you have to go through this.
Yes, justice for your children. I can relate to that.

I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers and be hoping and praying that everything goes well for you. If you become afraid, please don’t ‘tolerate’ it, reach out for help. There is help. Make sure your local law enforcement knows what’s up with your case.

*I send you my love !~ Dupey

Spam – scam it’s every where, I occasionally put something up for sale on CL..When I get a reply that say’s “Do you still have this item?” I know it’s spam – duh – what item? nah I fell for that chit before – or they want my address – duh I dont think so – guess I am going to take that old china cabinet to the salvation army..

i want your china cabinet, hens…
how much you want for it? 🙂

mwah!!! xxoo

Dupey Do – For you it is free, you just got to come and get it..xx00

🙂 Don’t tease me….hehehehe
mwahhh! xxoo

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