Like millions of other people, I turned to online dating apps or social networking sites to hopefully meet someone. But instead of finding Mr Right, I’m finding a seemingly never-ending line of misfits, scammers, liars, tricksters and cheaters. I’ve read many horror stories & have been through a few near misses and direct hits personally. One such occurrence happened this past week and I am going to share the highlights while I dive a little further and take a look at virtual dating scams.
In 2019, people reported losing $201 million to romance scams (1). People reported losing more money to romance scams in the past two years than to any other fraud reported to the FTC. Romance scammers create fake profiles on dating sites and apps, or contact their targets through popular social media sites like Instagram or Facebook. The scammers strike up a relationship with their targets to build their trust, sometimes talking or chatting several times a day. Then, they make up a story and ask for money. Well my guy didn’t work his way into asking for money – he just needed a place to stay & some other perks.
First sign of a scam- He professes love too quickly:
Often times one of the first signs of an online dating scammer/trickster shows up when a romance scammer starts to express strong emotions in a relatively short period of time. They will even say that they’re in love with you, even though they have not met you in person yet.
This was certainly the case with this guy. Overly complimentary. Telling me that just talking to me made him happy. Thanking GOD and calling me an angel. Saying he had not felt this way since a previous wife died some years ago. Sang old school love songs to me, love notes and said he loved me. Called me babe and baby right off the bat. It was odd, I thought. How could he feel that way about someone they have never met? Over the course of the next 14 days- he repeatedly told me I was the ONE! It seemed too good to be true, 6’2 Tall, dark and handsome. And it was. I remember the 1st thing he said to me was “I don’t need anything from you”. I take care of myself -work etc. And I thought hmm, ok- that sounds good. He tried very hard to represent himself as not some stereotypical broke man online looking for a woman to take care of him. He all but said that.
As I look back he was slightly evasive. Telling me only minimal tid bits about his past relationships ..the woman who died and the woman he married after that for whom he claimed to be divorced from for over 6 months. But, as many know me- I am a keyboard terrorist, investigator, sleuth, and what he told me gave me enough to locate a private Facebook profile on which he had a recent public video that I was able to make out from the descriptions he had given me, I was able to recognize that he was with the ex-wife he claimed to have divorced 6 months earlier and professes to HATE with a passion. Well, right then and there I suspected he was not being truthful based off this video. But, I let the charade continue cause – well, it’s a pandemic and I was bored.
It was like a cat and mouse game I was trying to get him to fess up to anything I should know because I kept telling him I felt he was hiding something but just couldn’t put my finger on it. He called from home on Video several times- he called from work and actually showed me to his co-workers saying “ I’m trying to make her mine”, he kept telling me I was the ONE.
To make a long story a little shorter- fast forward to I get a video call from him and he is in the ER claiming to be having a heart attack. PROFESSING his love & adoration for me- saying he has had a talk with GOD- then the guy double & triple downed on me-repeatedly saying I was beautiful, his angel, heaven sent- it was fate we matched on Tinder, on and on,- oh and by the way, he says I have a confession, I live with my ex-wife and she put all my stuff out today and kicked me out. I need a place to stay –BABEEE — PLEASE can I come stay with you? And as a side note- he also by now has told me that he does not have a car, or a full-time job (51 years old).
The next day he calls me again in a kind of different mood and proceeds to say GOD has performed a miracle and that he no longer needs heart surgery that his aortic aneurysm he previously told me about , that which he said was “leaking” the day before and he was coughing up blood from ( um huh) has disappeared but that he had a heart attack and needs to come stay with me so I can look after him. He said “I Got You” I promise. – I was thinking to myself, HUH?- You better get YOURSELF somebody dumb enough to let you move in with them. Lol, but seriously we all need to be reminded to be careful and what to look out for in the virtual dating world. Here are some tips:
Tips for Avoiding Romance Scams:
- Be careful what you post and make public online. Scammers can use details shared on social media and dating sites to better understand and target you.
- Research the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the image, name, or details have been used elsewhere.
- Go slowly and ask lots of questions.
- Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or social media site to communicate directly.
- Beware if the individual attempts to isolate you from friends and family or requests inappropriate photos or financial information that could later be used to extort you.
- Beware if the individual promises to meet in person but then always comes up with an excuse why he or she can’t. If you haven’t met the person after a few weeks or months, for whatever reason, you have good reason to be suspicious.
- Never send money to anyone you have only communicated with online or by phone.
How to Avoid Losing to a Romance Scammer
Here’s the bottom line: Never send money or gifts to a sweetheart you haven’t met in person and DON’T let them know where you live until you have fully vetted the person.
If you suspect a romance scam:
- Stop communicating with the person immediately.
- Talk to someone you trust, and pay attention if your friends or family say they’re concerned about your new love interest.
- Do a reverse image search of the person’ profile picture to see if it’s associated with another name or with details that don’t match up – those are signs of a scam.
The criminals who carry out romance scams are experts at what they do and will seem genuine, caring, and believable. Con artists are present on most dating and social media sites.
The scammer’s intention is to establish a relationship as quickly as possible, endear himself to the victim, and gain trust. Scammers may propose marriage and make plans to meet in person, but that will never happen. Eventually, they will ask for money or even a place to stay.
(2) Scams and Safety