Online dating can be exhilarating—it’s an opportunity to meet new people from anywhere around the world. Online dating increases the likelihood of a dating scam. In addition, dating apps and social media platforms make it easier for scammers to find and target unsuspecting individuals.
What Does a Dating Scam Look Like?
Their photos are attractive but believable. The photos on their profile are exclusively selfies or solo, posed pictures. The pictures they send often show them in uniform for their profession—such as a soldier, doctor, oil rig worker or construction worker.
They don’t have a ‘normal’ social media presence. By “not normal” we mean their profile has few or no friends, lacks photos with others, includes only the same few pictures they already sent you or has little to no detail about their life. Also look out for multiple profiles with multiple names using the same photos. We recommend running their photos through a reverse image search to double check.
They immediately have a lot in common with you. Before you have a chance to get to know each other they attempt to demonstrate that you have shared interests. The similarities may directly line up with topics you’ve included in your online profile, such as:
- Being divorced, widowed or recently losing a loved one
- Being a single parent and having a child that needs a mother/father
- Declaring the same interests, hobbies and values
- Claiming to follow the same religion as you and using references to God, prayer and Bible verses
What Does a Dating Scam Sound Like?
They shower you with over-the-top affection and gifts. Scammers use grand romantic gestures, intense flattery and excessive communication—also known as love bombing—in an effort to make you feel dependent and obligated to them. Once you are reliant on them, they use emotional manipulation—such as guilt-tripping, blackmailing and invalidating your feelings—to ask for money.
They ask for money—often in the form of gift cards, wire transfers or cryptocurrency. Scammers will claim they are facing medical emergencies, car repairs, debt, travel expenses or customs fees and will ask you to help take care of these emergencies so they can come visit you. Scammers might even claim that they will face violence or jail time if they can’t pay. Sometimes they’ll try to open a joint banking account, credit card or bitcoin wallet with you, asking you for financial information.
They request personal information, like your home address, Social Security number or bank account information. They claim it’s so they can send you a gift or open up a joint bank account, but it turns out they are just trying to steal your identity.
Immediate Action Steps
If you think you may have been involved in an online dating scam, you should take immediate action to protect yourself and your financial wellbeing. Here are some steps to take if you think you have been scammed:
- Gather any information you can about the scammer, such as messages, emails, texts, pictures and profile screenshots.
- Report it! If you come across a scammer during your search for love online, don’t hesitate to speak up, even if you didn’t lose any money. Your efforts could help someone else avoid a scam.
- Reach out to a friend, family member or counselor who can help you with the emotional fallout.