How to stand up the crooks who run online dating scams: Internet Scambusters #410
Recent media reports suggest online dating scams are on the rise, with organized crime playing an increasing role.
Some victims lose tens of thousands of dollars to crooks who exploit their vulnerability.
Updating our earlier reports on this heartless crime, we highlight the latest tricks and offer 10 tips on how to spot and avoid the scammers.
10 Ways To Skip Online Dating Scams
Online dating scams have been hitting the headlines with increasing frequency recently, causing not only heartache but a pain in the pocket.
In earlier issues, we explained how scammers try to strike up online relationships then, claiming to be stranded in another country or in desperate need to visit a sick relative, ask the victim to help pay for an airplane ticket.
Other tricks include scammers creating a false identity when they're already married, or simply trying to get information from you that may eventually lead to identity theft.
In addition to the tricks reported in those issues, the current crop of online dating scams includes some cunning new ways of trying to fool victims in search of companionship.
Claiming to be a soldier serving in Iraq or Afghanistan is a particularly common online dating scam at the moment. These con artists often use the real rank and name of an active (or even deceased) service member and go on to ask for money to buy items like laptop computers or international cellphones.
The really worrisome thing, though, is that organized crime syndicates, chiefly in Russia or the Philippines, run many of the latest sweetheart scams.
This enables them to pull together some convincing ploys to fool their targets, for instance, using teams of young female students to make authentic sounding phone calls. They're usually Russian but speak good English.
In another instance, victims are encouraged to send explicit text or photographs, then either blackmailed or threatened and "fined" by bogus police officers.
Crooks get contact details from numerous sources including hacked dating club accounts and social network listings, like Facebook, in which people "advertise" their "available" relationship status.
In other cases, the crooks simply establish bogus online dating clubs for which they charge a membership fee, sending out fictitious photographs and biographies to keep victims on the hook, paying their monthly fees.
There's no doubt that online dating has helped many people find friends and life partners. It can be a great way of finding the right match and discovering compatibility.
To do this safely, check out the guidelines in our earlier issues and note the following additional 10 action points:
- If a would-be dater gives you their email address upfront, without even knowing you, chances are it's a scam.
And don't give out your email address too easily or quickly -- better yet, set up a separate email account for your dating activities.
- Ignore any unsolicited calls or messages from someone seeking a date, claiming they saw your name, phone number or photo and want to start a relationship.
- Be wary about announcing on a social network that you're seeking a new relationship. Almost certainly you'll get more than you bargained for.
- Beware of people who are vague about themselves or chop and change the stories they tell you.
- If their use of English is poor -- bad grammar and spelling -- be skeptical. Okay, so not everyone is an English major but some language abuses, such as flowery prose or use of religious phrases, are a dead giveaway for a Nigerian online dating scam.For examples of what we mean, check out this earlier Scambusters issue on scammers' language: Know the Lingo -- How to Get Wise to Scam Language.Here's the wording of an email received recently by Scambuster Keith:(begin message, exactly as received)
Hello, Nice meeting you,how are you? Hope you are alright.my name is doris!i am sorry to bother you, I have interest in you that makes me leave a massage for you and also I wants you as a friend also want you to write me through my [e]-[mail][address removed] tell me were you leave and also send me your pictures; I will also send my picture to you.. Is my plesure to meet you here in this site. Yours sincerely Miss doris!
Love those exclamation marks and the offer to leave a massage!
- If you're seeking a genuine relationship, give a wide berth to any site inviting you to "chat right now" with potential dates.Authentic would-be daters aren't just sitting by the phone waiting to talk to anyone who happens to call in.They may use premium-charge phone lines. If not, sooner or later you'll be asked for money.
- If someone with whom you've struck up a relationship asks you for money, just don't give it, no matter how plausible their story seems. Say you don't have it.Even if you've met and think you know your new partner, be ultra-cautious and don't part with large sums of money. Newspaper columns are full of stories of people who've been conned this way.
- If you're thinking of joining an online dating club, stick with some of the established big names. For example, although we can't vouch for the site's accuracy, check out Consumer-Rankings.com or search online for "top dating sites."If you really must use a little known service, or want to use a specialist agency (such as one specifically linked to your interests or profession), use Internet security software to check the legitimacy of a site and do an online search on the name of the service to see what others are saying.
- Finally, of course, just use your common sense. Photos of stunningly beautiful women or handsome hunks, much as you might be attracted to them, are a red flag. So are outrageous claims of wealth or high-flying jobs.
If you don't fit any of these categories yourself (and, in all honesty, most of us don't!) why would these people be interested in you?
If you're looking for friendship or a new partner, we wish you good luck. Just don't be too trusting. Make sure, using our guidelines, you can identify those devious characters who run online dating scams, and then stand them up!
That's it for today -- we hope you enjoy your week!