Tips For Defensive Dating, Including Warning Signs that You Could Be The Target Of An Online Romance Scam – From the WSJ
Here are tips for defensive dating, including warning signs that you could be the target of an online romance scam
March 15, 2018 11:55 a.m. ET14 COMMENTS
More and more people are looking for love online. A large chunk are those age 50 to 64, and dating services aimed at baby boomers are expected to grow the most over the next five years.
You know who else is prowling around websites and apps, looking to score? Scammers.
Last year, more than 15,000 victims lost some $210 million in “confidence frauds” and romance scams, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
…Know Where Scammers Lurk
Scammers don’t limit their hunting grounds to old-school dating sites like Match.com. They’re trolling for victims on any number of apps, even ones that aren’t associated with dating, such as the Scrabble-like online social game Words With Friends, according to the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker.
…Last fall, Facebook published a blog post outlining what users should be looking out for when it comes to scams, which often begin with messages from an unfamiliar person claiming to be divorced or widowed and seeking to start a conversation.
… Verify, Verify, Then Verify Again
Once you’ve matched with a person, start googling—hard. “Do some cyberstalking,” Ms. Nofziger says.
Use reverse Google image search to see if your match’s photos have been recycled from other websites. Look up employer names and any other details you can search for.
Be aware that anyone can create a LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter profile, even if names and titles look legitimate.
“It doesn’t 100% validate authenticity of the person,” she says. “That’s just another piece of the puzzle for you.”
Scammers try to move their targets off the platform where they met as soon as possible, says Patti Poss, a senior attorney with the Federal Trade Commission. Someone may say their subscription is ending, or that they don’t use the site much. That may be an excuse to start using standard text messages, email—or the phone.
Remember that a phone call doesn’t mean someone is legit. Scammers can and do call their targets; sometimes they even send gifts.
Another red flag? Professing love superfast. “Slow down,” Ms. Poss says. “Don’t let them rush you.”
…Recognize the Script
Scammers often say they live in the U.S. but their work takes them overseas. Or they do mission work abroad. Or they’re in the military—the (Link): U.S. Army has a guide on what to look for if you suspect a scammer is impersonating a serviceman.
When they keep saying they want to meet but can’t, that’s another flag. These circumstances make for an easy cover.
What often happens before a planned meeting is suddenly they have to travel internationally. Then it’s emergency time: Their child is sick. They were injured in an accident….
Avoid Giving Money or Other Assistance
When asking for money, scammers might want iTunes gift cards—either the physical cards or a picture of the code on the back. Don’t fall for that or any other shady-sounding forms of payment.
Assistance can take a variety of forms. A scammer might ask you to accept a shipment and send it elsewhere or to accept money into your own account and then wire it somewhere else.
“Sometimes they don’t actually ask you for money,” says Katherine Hutt, communications director at the Better Business Bureau. “They get the romance scam victim to be their money mule.”
…The AARP has a (Link): fraud watch section on their website and a number you can call for help. If you are trying to warn a family member, be prepared to be disbelieved.
….Think You’ve Been Scammed?
Don’t continue communicating with your suspected scammers under any circumstances, even if you’re hoping to bust them. If they know you’re onto them, they might threaten to release information or pictures that could be embarrassing if you don’t give them more money. Victims can also be the targets of secondary scams, where people pretend to help get their money back.
Just cut them off cold turkey and start filing complaints. …