Looking for your special someone? In recent years, people have grown more comfortable with online dating as a way to meet others. In fact, 15 percent of adults in the United States have reported using online dating sites or online dating apps to meet people.
Nearly 25 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds report using mobile dating apps; in 2013, only 5 percent reported doing so. There is also an increase in the use of mobile apps and online sites in the 48- to 65-year-old age group.
Two thirds of online daters—66 percent—say that they have gone on a date with someone they met through a dating site or dating app.
As more and more people are taking to the Internet to search for a partner, and as we grow more accustomed to sharing personal information online through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., we should be even more aware of scammers who take advantage of people searching through digital platforms, seeking companionship and love.
Each year, millions of dollars are lost by innocent people believing scammers who lie to them – $220 million was lost through online dating scams and reports to the FBI tripled between 2012 and 2016.
So how do you protect your heart and wallet while looking for love? When using online dating sites and apps, watch for:
What does an online dating scam look like?
Online dating scams usually come in two forms. The first are scammers who want you to believe they are “looking for love.” These people pretend to be searching for someone special but they are on these sites to take advantage of people, typically older adults, who they befriend in order to gain personal information that they then use to access bank accounts, credit cards, social security accounts and other private, but vulnerable, financial information.
The second are “professional matchmakers.” They claim that for outrageous sums of money, they can match you with “the one,” but they seldom yield any result beyond a loss of your money and time!
Scammers “looking for love”
How do you spot a scammer on a dating site? Typically, these scammers:
- Are younger than you. Scammers will typically target individuals who are older than them and more financially stable, most often, older men. If you are an older person on a dating site, be cautious.
- Will profess their love too quickly. These people want to draw you in as quickly as they can. They don’t want you to question their motives. They will make you feel special and keep asking personal questions, in order to make you feel safe with them.
- Will ask for money. Although some requests may sound reasonable, remember that it is unusual for someone to be asking for financial help early in any kind of relationship. Scammers will always involve money in your conversations – after all, that is their main goal.
- Will ask to talk off the dating site. They are often quick to leave the dating site and go into phone calls and texting. If things are moving too quickly and they want your private contact information, be very careful. Stop and think about it.
- Plan to meet in person but never appear. They come up with many excuses why they can’t meet in person. Sometimes, they will also claim they came to a meeting place but couldn’t find you. If they are not willing to meet you in person, stay away.
In general, do not believe these “love scammers” – and do not, ever, give financial information over the phone to any stranger.
Another form of dating scam involves people who claim to be “professional matchmakers.” Most often these people will:
- Ask you to pay upfront. Most often, these matchmakers will ask you to pay a large payment upfront, sometimes up to $5000.
- Delay the match–making process. Their goal is not to find you a date; their goal is to take your money. One way they do that is delaying, saying they are looking for the “perfect match.”
Although there are some valid and legal matchmaking services, before you give them money, check them out online (Google the name of the company with the word “scam”), ask for references and check with the Better Business Bureau and other local organizations.
What to do?
If you believe that you are dealing with a scammer, here are a few things you can do:
- Slow down and assess the situation. Scammers will usually try to pressure you into sending them money as soon as possible. Take your time.
- Get outside advice from someone you trust, who can give you a fresh perspective on your situation.
- Never share personal information, including your address, email or financial information of any kind, with a stranger.
- Do not wire money, send cash through reload cards or gift cards to an “online lover” – you won’t be getting it back. And by the time you figure it out, they are already on to their next victim!!
- If you’ve transferred money through your bank account, contact your bank immediately, they can make efforts to stop the transfer.
If you’ve been scammed, you can:
- File a complaint with the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection: http://www.portal.ct.gov/DCP/Complaint-Center/Consumers—Complaint-Center.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission: ftc.gov/complaint.
And remember, tell your family and friends, and Pass It On!
This article was written by Catherine Blinder, chief education and outreach officer of the Department of Consumer Protection of the State of Connecticut. To learn more about how the Department of Consumer Protection can help, visit us online at www.ct.gov/dcp.