Thinking and Meaning

The thinking man's guide to creating connections.

How to Recognize a Dating Scam

Online dating targets lonely hearts

Online dating is the number one way in which people enter into romantic relationships. Countless sites are devoted to people seeking love. People using the sites to find romance claim it’s a convenient way to meet someone, particularly if you live in a rural area. However, it can also mean making yourself a target for scammers.

The Target

Scammers are savvy when it comes to tricking their targets into sending money to line their pockets. Some ask for money right away while others work up to it, starting with iTunes or gift cards, eventually asking for credit card or bank account information. Regardless of the method, it always comes down to money.

Victims of online dating scams are often embarrassed when they are duped, but it doesn’t mean that they are foolish or stupid. Scammers know what to say and when to say it to pull on a person’s heart strings. Many will talk on the phone or text to develop a relationship. Some will go as far as to make wedding plans with the intended victim. The story always ends the same way – the scammer takes the money and runs. The thief leaves the victim poorer and often heartbroken.

Spotting an Online Romance Scam

Scammers give telltale signs that they are not legit. They will insist that you leave the site and talk in person, text or email. Written messages use poor English with misspelled words and strange language, e.g., “I will love meeting you and having our life as one.” Red flags include messaging or texting in the middle of the night, sending pictures that are taken in a professional studio, or offering a sob story about the death of a spouse or some other tragedy. Common ploys also include claiming love a first site, or the fact that while s/he lives in the U.S., she is working overseas. This also includes people portraying themselves as members of the military. A planned visit suddenly goes awry, there is a medical emergency, a bank or credit card has been hacked, or a phone has been broken.

What You Can Do if You’re Suspicious

  • Online daters should use a reverse image search on any photos received. The reverse search will show if it’s a commonly used picture or one of a celebrity.
  • Ask for identification.
  • Run a reverse phone search on the scammer’s phone number. You will see if it is a VoIP phone number, legitimate, or registered to someone else.
  • No matter how much the person begs or threatens, do not send gift cards, money in any form, or send/receive packages. The stories can be convincing but, in the end, the person will take the money and leave the site. If the identity is fraudulent, there is a slim chance the person will ever be identified or caught.

Reporting Online Dating Scams

Victims of online dating scams should make a report to their state Attorney General as well as the Federal Trade Commission and the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.