This week, Naked Security published an article about scammers who target dating site users. According to the story, just last year, scammers stole $86 million from Americans on online dating websites. Most of those who were defrauded of money were over 40 years old and female.
How did the scammers pull it off? They were attentive and communicative, sending sometimes dozens of emails and text messages a day to their targets. They posed as successful businessmen who either had inside tracks to “great investments” or who needed a little loan to get back to awesome wealth. The women, enjoying the attention and totally trusting their “lovers,” sent money. The did it even though they hadn’t met these guys in person.
After the scammers took the money and ran, the victims generally felt stupid and embarrassed. They realized after the fact how wrong it was to trust someone on the internet so completely, to send money without even meeting someone first, etc. But in the moment, when a potential romantic prospect is paying lots of attention, it’s easy to get swept away.
Naked Security offers these five tips from AARP to help you avoid being scammed yourself when using online dating sites:
1. Use Google’s Reverse Image Search to check out the potential lover’s photos. Most scammers will simply steal pics off the internet to put in their profiles, so if the photo they use turns up elsewhere, that could be a major red flag.
2. Google them. Put their name into Facebook, LinkedIn, anywhere else you can think of. See what comes up. If the person claims to be an investment banker at a particular business but doesn’t show up as a member of that business’s staff, he may be scamming you.
3. Make sure your location is kept private if you’re using a dating app or other mobile service. You don’t want someone to be able to track your whereabouts. Go into your phone’s settings to turn off location services for the apps you use.
4. Keep an eye out for fishy emails. If your potential lover sends you a message that sounds at all scammy/suspicious/just plain weird, copy and paste the text into google. The email may come up on other sites warning people of romance scams. These scammers don’t usually craft unique emails every time they try to swipe some dough from unsuspecting victims; that would take too long.
5. Maintain your privacy at all costs. Don’t give away your personal info too soon. Your home address, your workplace, your birthday, even your last name should be kept to yourself until you’re sure you can trust this person. If they refuse to meet in public (or make plans and then always cancel), or if they pressure you for your personal info, run away.