Romantic or Frantic

This year the online dating market is expected to be worth 415.3 million dollars with approximately 1,000 new online services being introduced annually. Online dating sites have become extremely prevalent over the last decade. That being said, 15% of U.S. adults report using online dating sites to find romance.

The question you should be asking yourself is, are you finding romance or opening your heart to an online scam? Romantic or frantic. More often than you probably think, people are getting scammed online while trying to find a companion. They’re being manipulated into financial loss, Islamic terrorism and much more. Criminals create fake profiles to reel in these online victims to confiscate money, morals, personal belongings, etc.

Many relationships start online by exchanging basic information, traits, interests, history, etc. The next phase is where it usually takes a turn for the worst. Sometimes months will go by before this next phase even occurs so don’t let your guard down. The scammer will initially form a connection with the victim and possibly even send them gifts before taking the next steps. What you need to be on the lookout for is the next phase—when your online “date” begins to ask you for money but in a ‘masked’ form. Whether it be money they need for traveling expenses to come see you or a sick family member they can’t afford to medicate, this is your indicator to STOP all forms of communication.

The individual may begin their scam by encouraging your form of communication to switch from the dating site to a social media site, email, or chatting app; this allows your communication to become more intimate and unprotected. They may also confess immediate feelings of love towards you or have a profile photo that resembles a glamour magazine or something even more unrealistic. These are all signs of frantic, not romantic! At some point during this phase, the online scammer will begin requesting money and it is your job to say NO. They may even ask you to cask checks for them or forward them packages that they don’t legally have access too. These are all immediate signs of a dating scam.

Never send money to someone you haven’t met before. The average financial loss from a dating scam is 5,000-10,000 dollars. The chances of you recovering those funds are slim and the chances of that online “date” being legitimate are even slimmer. Also, never provide an online “date” with your financial status. That shouldn’t be a make or break question for beginning a relationship so if they’re asking, it’s fishy. Approximately 70% of online victims are women with the most common target being women over 40 who are divorced, widowed or disabled. Scammers will go online and create their profiles after studying yours so they match up and even you might reach out to them first.

Don’t let that age group fool you though, young adults are using these sites more than ever. With Tinder, OkCupid, Happn, Bumble, and many more dating apps available, 27% of the adults using dating sites are 18-24 years of age. Be very careful.

Another form of online manipulation is Islamic terrorism recruitment. These scammers are recruiting youth by using romance and marriage as incentives. Confessing their love and immediate feelings towards you is a warning sign. According to an article in the New York Times, Islamic studies show this as a terrorist recruitment tactic as they present marriage and companionship to reel in these victims.

Here are some tips on how to keep yourself clear of these online scammers:

  • Stick to nationally known online dating sites with valuable reputations
  • NEVER send/wire any money to someone you just met online
  • If you think you have been victimized, file a report
  • Don’t open any attachments sent over to you
  • Keep your form of communication through the dating website and do not provide any other form of communication until meeting in person
  • Pay attention to language and watch for signs of bad spelling, grammar, etc. This could mean they’re overseas
  • Don’t purse anything too long before meeting in person
  • Don’t let your guard down! Even months into the relationship, keep your eyes open!