Whether you’re meeting someone on a dating app or social media, you’re one of the millions of people who have turned to the internet to find a potential partner. Many have had success with online dating sites like Match.com , OKCupid.com, OurTime.com, and eHarmony, and applications like Bumble, Hinge, and even Tinder.
According to the FTC, romance scams were up a whopping 78% in 2021 from the year before. A record $547 million in losses were reported as a result of online crooks taking advantage of those looking for love. Dating app con artists have targeted Americans to the tune of $1.3 billion in just the past five years. How crooks are swindling so many singles it is nothing short of heartbreaking.
Watch out for these red flags if you’ve met someone online.
Red Flag #1
Scammers will often lie about their profession.
Be wary if the person you’ve met online says they have one of these jobs:
- Works on an oil rig
- Doctor in an international organization
- Construction worker abroad
- ‘Top secret’ government position
The imposters will commonly say they’re working, living, or traveling outside of the U.S.
Red Flag #2
You’re asked to move the conversation to a third-party platform.
Someone you met online might ask you to instead chat on:
- Google Hangouts
- Facebook messenger
While it may seem like they want to continue getting to know you, really the scammer is hoping to avoid having their account reported on the site or app where you met.
Red Flag #3
Never give money or any financial information.
Even if someone sends you money first or says the money is so they can buy a phone card to continue talking to you, never send money to anyone you meet online.
Common reasons they might ask for money:
- To pay for a plane ticket or other travel expense
- To pay for a visa or other travel document
- To pay for surgery or other medical expense
- To pay off a gambling debt
- To pay for custom fees to retrieve something
Scammers often ask you to pay:
- By wiring money
- By purchasing gift cards
- Through Venmo or Zelle (they might send money first but that is also likely a scam)
Red Flag #4
They won’t video chat with you.
With Zoom, FaceTime, and video call features available on most dating sites, it’s easy to meet anyone virtually.
They’re most likely not the person they claim to be in the photos they’ve posted to their dating or social media profile if they won’t meet via video call.
If you do video chat with someone and their picture is always dark, this is another common way for scammers to hide their real identity.
Red Flag #5
The relationship moves too quickly.
Scammers want to gain your trust so they might:
- Profess their love after a short amount of time
- Propose or ask about marriage
- Ask you not to tell your friends and family about the relationship
They also might ask questions like:
- What’s your mother’s maiden name?
- What street did you grow up on?
Never give away personal information to someone you haven’t met – these are all ploys to eventually steal money or financial information.
What should you do if you think you’ve been scammed?
- Report the scammer to the FTC here and on the website you met them on
- If you sent money, contact your bank or credit/debit card company and report fraud
- If you sent a gift card, keep the receipt and contact the gift card company and report the scam
- If you gave out any personal information like a social security number, follow the steps at IdentityTheft.gov
More dating scam tips from Kurt’s appearance on Dr. Phil: Online Dating Scams: How To Tell If You Are Being Baited by a Catfish
Have you or anyone you know experienced scammers like this? Comment below.
[Originally published January 19, 2022. Updated February, 13, 2022 with newly released FTC stats]