Online dating is the subject of today’s Scambook news. Kevan talks about fraud on dating websites like xDating.com, SeniorsMeet.com, Christian Mingle, JDate, Match.com, Chemistry.com, eHarmony, Craigslist Personals, OK Cupid and more. Our users reported that some of these sites bait-and-switch you and you end up paying for a subscription membership. You may receive unauthorized credit card charges and have difficulty cancelling your account. But Kevan explains that the worst schemes are executed by criminals who create fake profiles. If you’re single and looking to meet that special someone online, be careful. The fraudsters might email you love letters, tell you stories about their fake job overseas, send you photos of their fake family and romance you until you agree to meet in person or even get married. Then, when it’s time to meet, something goes wrong and your soul mate needs you to wire money via Western Union or Money Gram. They promise to pay you back, but they’re lying about everything – including their love for you — and you’ll only get ripped off. Kevan tells us about Scambook members who have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in online dating fraud, or even taken out a second mortgage to help their fake long-distance boyfriend or girlfriend. Finally, he offers safety tips about how to protect yourself and avoid the awful crooks who will break your heart and empty your bank account.
Here’s how this type of fraud works. You create a profile on an online dating site, and one day you receive a message from a guy or girl who seems really great. You start chatting, exchange pictures and tell each other about your families. According to Scambook members, fraudsters pulling this scheme usually claim to be divorced or widowed, often express devout religious beliefs and often say they have a child. By constructing this
well-rounded persona, they know their fake identity becomes easier to believe. Then, sooner or later, they wave the biggest red flag of all: they’re living or working overseas and they can’t meet you in person. Unfortunately, by this point, they’re also writing you love letters and maybe sending you romantic gifts. So when they propose that you both spend the rest of your lives together after their work contract ends, it’s easy to say yes. You may even make plans for a specific date to finally meet.
That’s when everything starts to unravel. Your long-distance boyfriend or girlfriend tells you that there’s a problem – their Visa expired, someone stole their Passport, their child has a medical emergency – and they need you to send money. It may be a relatively small amount, at first, and they assure you that they’ll pay you back as soon as they’re home in the United States. However, sending money only makes the situation worse. They give you excuses about why they never received it, and they need more. The cycle goes on forever! One Scambook member lost over $140,000 to someone who claimed to be a Norwegian working in Ghana. Another member was conned out of $300,000 by someone claiming to be an American in Nigeria, whose son was gravely ill. Both of these schemes played out over the course of several months or years. These cases may sound extreme, but sadly, they’re not uncommon.
Unfortunately, once you wire your money, you can’t get it back. These criminals often operate overseas, which makes it very difficult for the authorities to track them and bring them to justice.
The best way to protect yourself from this type of online dating fraud is to learn the warning signs. Online dating can be a great way to meet new people, but you need to stay safe. When you’re looking for love on the internet, follow these rules:
1. Never give your personal information or send money to someone you haven’t met in person.
It doesn’t matter how sincere they seem, or how much they say they love you. Even if they send you photos, you can’t be sure the person you’re talking to is really who they say they are. Be extra cautious of anyone who says they’ve fallen in love with you after one or two emails.
2. If your e-date refuses to meet you, they might be an e-dud.
It’s a huge warning sign if someone you meet online refuses to meet you, or if you make plans to meet but the other person keeps making excuses.
3. Stay local.
Most online dating sites will allow you to limit your matches to your city or region. You may still encounter some creeps if you date locally, but someone who lives nearby is less likely to be a foreign con artist posing as a widower. If you hit it off with someone who says they’re in the military or temporarily working in another country or another state, put the brakes on your conversation and tell them to email you again when they’re back home.
4. Once you learn someone’s real name, look them up on Scambook and other sites.
Often, fraudsters use the same online persona on different dating sites to exploit multiple people. If they’ve used that name to take advantage of someone else in the past, you’ll find it our website. However, even if your online date isn’t on Scambook, you should still be very cautious – especially if this person shows any of the red flags we’ve mentioned. Remember rule #1 and don’t give them any personal information until you’ve had a chance to get to know them off-line.
5. If you do meet someone in person, use common sense.
Always meet someone for the first time in a busy public place, such as a restaurant or a city plaza. Provide your own transportation to and from the date, including enough cash to cover cab fare in case you have an extra drink. It’s also a good idea to tell a friend where you’re going, who you’re meeting and when you expect to return.
When in doubt, trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to get help from your friends and family.
Stay tuned to Scambook news for more great information and tips to protect yourself. Next week, Kevan covers more online dating disasters and gives you the exclusive Scambook scoop on xDating.
Watch our follow-up video on online dating fraud: Online Dating Alert: Warning About Singles Sites Like xDating That Make You Pay Before You Can Message Their Members