Home > Identity Theft > The Dangers of Online Dating

Comments 0 Comments

After years of searching for love in all the wrong places, you’ve finally hit the jackpot. Prince Charming is only a keystroke away, and you found him via social media or at an online dating site.

But is he really “the one”? Online dating scams are common, and they cost victims more than $50 million a year, says ThreatMetrix, a cybercrime prevention company.

They come in several forms. A story reported by the BBC last week is typical: A woman in England became involved online with a man who claimed to be a United Nations medic in Syria. The BBC said:

The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, met the man on an online dating site and developed a “close friendship.”

In March he told her he was sending a package for her to keep, which he had been given by a Syrian sheik.

According to fake customs papers, the package supposedly contained 34 gold bars, which he was sending with his personal possessions.

She was sent a video of the gold bars supposedly being unpacked at Heathrow by customs officials.

She paid a £1,770 handling charge that was fake and also a £7,400 government tax bill that was also fake, to release the package.

She then agreed to pay £4,000 for a flight from Syria for him to get home.

The police were unable to find the man, who received the money through a company that wasn’t involved in the scam.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has begun writing letters to people deemed at risk for online dating scams, based on their record of sending money overseas, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Australians lost more than $25 million to such scams last year. Forty-three victims were taken for more than $100,000 each.

In another common twist, here in the U.S. it was recently reported that a photo of Montana Attorney General Tim Fox, probably taken from Facebook, was used in a phony profile on a dating website. An Indiana woman who was scammed sent her online love nearly $150,000 before she went to police.

So, how can you recognize that you’re being scammed by your online sweetheart?

  • You’ve never seen them. The Morning Herald said they’ll avoid meeting you in real life or even in a video chat.
  • They want you to migrate away from the platform, using email or instant messaging. “Many online dating sites have systems in place to detect scammers, so scammers will try and move the conversation away from the scrutiny of community platforms to a one-on-one interaction such as email or phone,” the Morning Herald said.
  • Their profile is fake. Some are obvious, i.e., the photo is too gorgeous for words. In any case, you might be able to figure this out by using Google Search by Image, the ACCC says. “The pictures you were sent were most likely phony, lifted from other websites. The profiles were fake as well, carefully crafted to match your interests,” the FBI says.
  • They know a lot about you and don’t share much about themselves, other than the “fact” that you two have so much in common and that you’re a match made in heaven.
  • They eventually ask for money.

Gail Buckner wrote for Fox Business:

They might claim to have a medical emergency and need money to cover the expense. Or, they want to meet you in person, but need financial help from you to cover their travel. Or they’ve had a financial setback and “just” need a little help to get back on their feet.

Some scammers will engage victims in intimate conversations, then post the conversations along with photos and other identifying information on a website and demand $99 from the victim to take it down, the FBI says.

Others will send you checks to cash because, they say, they’re out of the country, or packages to forward. “In addition to losing your money to someone who had no intention of ever visiting you, you may also have unknowingly taken part in a money laundering scheme by cashing phony checks and sending the money overseas and by shipping stolen merchandise (the forwarded package),” the FBI said.

Some are merely trying to get you to provide personal information, such as bank accounts, credit card numbers and passwords, so they can rip you off.

The average loss in online dating scams is between $15,000 and $20,000, according to the FBI.

Ways to Protect Yourself

Obviously, you should keep an eye out for all of the warning signs we mentioned above. Also:

  • Check the privacy settings on the social media networks you use to limit who can see your information.
  • Avoid fly-by-night dating services. The big sites have systems in place to detect scammers. But be careful no matter what site you use. ThreatMetrix says 1 in 10 online dating profiles are scams.
  • Don’t friend people on Facebook you don’t know.
  • Don’t share personal information like credit card numbers and date of birth.
  • If someone you’ve met recently via a dating website claims to have fallen in love with you, that’s a bad sign.
  • If that person also claims to be living or traveling abroad, that’s another big indicator of fraud.

Now, I’m not suggesting that online dating is bad. In fact, I’ve seen a number of stories about couples who met via online dating services and have been happily married for a number of years. So if your mate passes the test and turns out to be the real deal, best wishes to you for a happy life together.

Karen Datko contributed to this post. This post originally appeared on Money Talks News.

More from Money Talks News:

Image: Stockbyte

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team