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Have you ever exchanged emails with someone you met through an internet dating site, just to wonder if it’s the same person who is replying to your messages each time?
Or perhaps you’ve briefly thought to yourself that the person on the other end of the communication really needs to employ a spell-checker.
Neither of these email discrepancies is cause for alarm; many people aren’t very good at spelling and grammar, and they may write English as a second language. But if over one of the following email discrepancies pops up during your communications, it may be an internet dating scam.
So how do you avoid falling prey to an internet dating scam, like catfishing, in the first place? Take heed of the following red flags and you’ll be much more aware, prepared and ready should someone try to take advantage of you.
Table of Contents
Multiple Discrepancies or Oddities
It can be very heady to have an ongoing email chat with someone who focuses entirely on you. In fact, this is a grand sign that the person on the other end of the conversation is truly interested and invested in learning more about who you are.
Where the danger lies, however, is not their interest in you as a person, but that they don’t offer any detailed, personal information about themselves in return, or doesn’t really answer your emails in a personal manner and changes the topic with each contact.
Appropriate responses are integral to determining whether you base the relationship you are creating on reality and not a potential internet dating scam.
Could the person emailing you be merely copying and pasting responses from a pre-determined outline or script? Do their emails really seem to “get” you and offer some sort of individualized attention?
Here are some items to check off when re-reading the communications from your online love interest:
- Communication is vague or difficult to understand;
- You notice specific, odd phrases get repeated from one conversation to the next;
- You receive immediate responses every time you send a message, with no discussion beforehand when you’ll be online;
- Email messages change in tone, language, style or grammar throughout the communication. This could grow over time, or it could be apparent in just one email;
- You hear a sob story early on that changes quickly from an annoyance into an emergency, and only you can help.
Asking for Money and/or To Cash a Check
Most singles who have tried meeting people from online dating sites have come across this telltale internet dating scam sign: being asked to either cash someone’s check or money order for them, or being asked outright for money. The story varies somewhat with each internet dating scam, but the intention remains the same: robbing you of your hard-earned cash.
If somebody asks you to wire them cash online – no matter what the reason, no matter how plausible or sad it sounds – don’t.
If you feel compelled to do it anyway, at least read FraudAid’s legal responsibility page, first. This non-profit details the ramifications you may face should you choose this route, no matter where you or the internet dating scam artist lives.
Unrealistic or Fake Photos
Although cliche, the saying holds true for internet dating scams: if the person’s photo looks too good to be true, that’s because it probably is.
Of course models, actors and other extremely attractive people want to find love too, and you may very well have lucked out in the attractiveness category with the person you are communicating with online. But if your online date also falls into one of the other internet dating scam categories listed here, then do a bit more investigating, first.
Need more details? Then try a…
Google Image Search
Not only can you use Google to search for user names and other identifying information of your suspected Internet dating scammer, you can also search by photo.
While not foolproof, Google Image Search along with the other items listed in this article should provide you with enough information to decide: is this person a romance scammer, or real?
How do you use it? Easy. Just grab a photo that your love interest sent you, and plug it into Google Image Search. It might take a few seconds, but if the photo’s a fake, stolen or a “celebrity”, then you’ll have your answer. Usually romance scammers re-use photos on different dating sites and apps, so this one tactic might break your investigation wide open.
Who Falls Prey To Internet Dating Scams?
No one wants to think an internet dating scam could take advantage of them, and yet hundreds of thousands of people are every single year.
In fact, the US Embassy to Russia receives reports every single day from people concerned a single looking for love has scammed them, and the U.S. Postal Service has created a video about the same topic on its FakeChecks.org website.
Need more proof? Check out these articles:
- Romance Scams Take Back Record Dollars in 2020 [Federal Trade Commission, USA]
- Washington is 7th most ‘catfished’ state, losing $14M to romance scammers last year [The Seattle Times]
- Love Hurts When You Get Scammed: Romance Fraud Tripled in 2020 [The Financial Times]
- Hong Kong policeman conned out of HK$200,000 in online love scam by ‘woman’ who said she was stuck in Japan [The South China Post]
Think You’ve Fallen For an Internet Dating Scam? Here’s What To Do
After the initial shock and anger, the next steps are to take a deep breath and look at the evidence. You’ve collected a bunch of it already just by working through the three steps detailed in this article.
It’s also important to take a deep breath and evaluate the situation before making any rash decisions.
Don’t panic or make any rash decisions. What you need is a clear head and a plan of action.
If someone has scammed you, send no more money to the scammer. Contact your bank or financial institution immediately and have them put a stop on any payments out of your account.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, call someone you trust for support.
Then stop communicating with the scammer. By continuing to communicate, you’re telling them you’re still open to sending them money.
Don’t compile a case against them, or attempt investigative questions.
Print out any emails or written communications you’ve received from the scammer, as well as copies of any relevant financial statements. If they email you personally, create a filter so their messages go straight to a hidden file folder that you don’t see upon logging in.
If you made contact through a dating app or website, contact the website. Every reputable dating site has a customer service department able to handle these types of scams. If they don’t, or refuse, take note and print out those communications to bring with you to the authorities.
Finally, submit your documents to your local police or victim advocacy group. If they need more information to move forward, they’ll ask. Make sure to note down any file numbers or account information you may need at a later date to get updates on your case.
How Have You Handled Internet Dating Scams?
If you’re a victim of an internet dating scam, what did you do? Did you find resolution with your case, or is it still pending? Do you have any suggestions for others in your situation to get help? Please share in the comments, so that no one has to suffer, dealing with a romance scam, catfish, or internet dating scam again.