Online dating scams also known as romance scams come in many disguises. But unlike Little Red Riding Hood, the ending is never a happy one. With online daters losing anywhere from $50 to $250,000.
In recent years online dating has become a victim of its own success. Mainly because the online dating industry itself is largely unregulated. This has allowed scammers around the world to take full advantage by exploiting millions of lonely hearts looking for love online.
Billions of dollars are being lost to scams every year, and it’s hardly surprising when 1 in every 10 online dating profiles are fake.
I know what you’re thinking, “I’m Web-savvy, and I’m not so easily fooled.” But what if I were to tell you that you could have been scammed already… possibly putting hundreds of dollars into the scammers pockets without even realizing it.
As you read this now, someone, somewhere, is being ripped off… and not necessarily by scammers from Nigeria, but by the actual online dating companies themselves.
The reality is… there are thousands upon thousands of dubious online dating companies, and they would all rather stab you in the back, steal your wallet, and leave you dying on the floor in a pool of blood, than actually help you to find your soulmate. They prey on lonely people looking for love, and they don’t give a damn about who they hurt.
I don’t want you to get hurt, or ripped off by these immoral pathetic excuses for human beings. Therefore I’ve written this guide to help you spot the tell tail signs that you’re dealing with a fraudster/scammer/scumbag.
Double Trouble – The Two Types of Scam
There are two types of scam that you really need to be aware of. The first one, and also in my mind the most underhanded, deceitful, and widespread, is the internal scam. This is fraud being committed internally by many of the online dating companies themselves. The second is the external scam. This is fraud being committed by individuals that are not associated with the dating companies; but they are using their dating sites as a platform to solicit their own victims.
The Internal Scam
In my mind the internal scam is the most prolific, but surprisingly at the same time the least talked about of all the online dating scams. In reality there are literally tens of thousands of dating sites being operated by heartless companies and individuals without a single moral to their names. They care only about one thing, and that’s greed, and how much they can extort from their hapless victims.
A recent Channel 4 investigation documented the alleged use of fake/pseudo profiles by a leading online dating site provider. Allegedly the company employed around 30 or so people to construct numerous fake pseudo profiles in order to persuade non-paying members to take out paid subscriptions.
The innocent users will have had no idea that the flirtatious messages in their inbox came from fake profiles created by the dating company themselves. The more messages the pseudo team sent from their fake profiles, the more likely innocent users would be to subscribe, or continue their monthly subscriptions. The pseudo team could string someone along for up to 24 months.
And believe me, this is not limited to one single company, or dating site. This plague is spreading like wildfire, and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Some of these companies even advertise on television, leading you to believe that they are actually reputable. Also so called white-label dating site providers allow anybody to setup a dating site in as little as 10 minutes. These sites are then pre-populated with fake profiles, and profiles copied from other dating sites hosted within the white-label providers network.
With fake profiles dating sites can earn 50 per cent more revenue, sometimes even more. And we are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide, this certainly isn’t small change.
And it’s not only pseudo profiles that these companies are using. But also automated messages, winks and chat requests that are generated from their own internal systems. Their only goal is to manipulate genuine users into believing that somebody wants to get to know them better, persuading them to pay in order to read their fake messages and contact their fake members.
These companies don’t give a damn if you find love or not, all they care about is stealing your money, and by any means necessary. It’s actually better for them financially if you stay single.
How to Spot the Internal Scam
Internal scams can be the easiest but also the most difficult to spot. Computer generated messages, winks and chat requests are the easiest, but pseudo profiles with real people behind them are a lot more difficult. Here are some clues to look out for:
- Messages, winks or chat requests received within hours of joining
- Messages, winks or chat requests from profiles that are suspiciously attractive
- Messages, winks or chat requests received shortly before your subscription expires
- Messages, winks or chat requests received from profiles that have never viewed your profile
- Chat message replies that are received virtually instantly
A good test to check whether the site is using computer generated messages, winks, and chat requests is to leave your profile incomplete for a week. Don’t enter any information, and definitely don’t upload a photo. If you receive any form of contact with a blank profile, this is a sure sign that the dating site is very dubious and you should remove your account ASAP.
Avoiding the pseudo profile trap is unfortunately much more difficult. The people behind them are experts in deception. The only clue you’ll ever have to them being fake, is that you’ll never successfully arrange to meet them in person. They will even go as far as arranging dates then cancelling at the last minute. And when you finally realize that this person is never going to meet you and decide not to renew your subscription, then along comes a second pseudo profile to string you along all over again. It can take months before you realize that you’re being scammed, and some people will never realize it.
My only advice is this… if you’ve been on any dating site for longer than 3-6 months, and exchanged numerous mails with other members but never actually sealed a real date. Then there’s a very good chance that you’ve been talking with pseudo profiles all along.
If you do feel like you have been misled, scammed and ripped off by any dating site. Then I strongly recommend submitting a complaint to your local consumer protection organization.
UK: If you’re in the UK, then you can send your complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office: www.ico.gov.uk
USA/Canada: For the USA and Canada you can report your complaints to the Better Business Bureaus: www.bbb.org
Australia: In Australia you can report a complaint to your local Consumer Protection Agency: www.accc.gov.au
The External Scam
With external scams the scumbags don’t work for the dating company. But they are taking advantage of the dating sites to solicit their victims. There are multiple variations of the external scam, these are the most common ones to watch out for:
1. You’re contacted through the site by someone who appears genuinely interested in you. Their profile will appear legitimate and they will also have a photo (often fake). They will attempt to build an intimate connection with you. Gaining your trust through weeks, even months of sending messages back and forth; they are very patient. They’ll come across as genuine and sincere, and may even send you flowers and gifts. But ultimately, your new-found “friend” is going to ask you for money. And they won’t always ask you directly, but often attempt to make you feel obliged to help them. These requests for money can be for a variety of reasons like travel, medical emergencies, hotel bills, medical bills for children, visas, or to help cover business losses.
2. Another variation on the external scam is that you’ll be asked to share compromising photos of yourself. The scammer will then threaten to publish these photos on a website, or send them to your place of work unless you send them money.
3. External scams can also involve other unscrupulous companies trying to promote their own businesses. These maybe webcam sites, adult sites, call girls, and even other dating sites.
How to Spot an External Scam
Here are some clues that your new-found friend is really a scumbag and only interested in your money. If she/he:
- Tries to persuade you to leave the dating site and to communicate through personal e-mail or instant messaging. This is because they are aware that legitimate dating sites are increasingly conscious of such scams, and the perpetrators will be keen to continue their wooing in private.
- Makes early declarations of love. And quick adoption of a pet name. If, by the second email, you are being addressed as “my beautiful angel”, this should set alarm bells ringing.
- Has photographs that look like they belong in a glamor magazine. Of course, not every good-looking person online is a scammer. But the scammers do tend to select very alluring images which they usually steal from elsewhere on the internet. Often a reverse image search in Google will identify if the image is being used elsewhere on the internet.
- Has poor English. The vast majority of romance scams originate from Africa/Nigeria. And their messages are often peppered with simple mistakes.
- Makes plans to visit you. But then at the last minute are unable to do so because of a tragic event.
- Asks for money for a variety of reasons. These may include (travel, medical emergencies, hotel bills, medical bills for children, visas or other official documents).
- Happens to work in a distant country, or have a job in the military. By pretending to be a soldier in the military or working on an oil rig provides the scammer with a convenient excuse for being unable to talk on the phone or meet in person. Some of the biggest scams occur from supposed soldiers with a sob story and a desperate desire to settle down.
- Starts alluding to great riches. Gold bullion or suitcases full of cash that they need to smuggle out of their home country.
- Asks you for saucy/naked photos of yourself. They will then use these photos to blackmail you. Often threatening to send them to your family/friends and place of work. Never ever give anyone online a compromising photo of yourself.
- Asks you to visit another website. They allege to be closing their account soon, and if you want to see their photos and stay in contact you will need to visit this other site.
Just please, whatever you do, never ever send money to anyone you have met on a dating site, or any other site on the internet for that matter. And especially avoid wiring cash. Be on the lookout for get-rich-quick schemes. If it sounds too good to be true, then it’s probably a scam.
Also review information on romancescams.org. The site shares stories from real people who have been scammed and robbed of their savings, documenting in detail the different methods that the scammers have used.
If you are unfortunate enough to be scammed and ripped off by these degenerates, then first of all please don’t be ashamed. You are most certainly not the first, and won’t be the last. The good news is that there are organizations that have been setup to help and support you:
UK: If you are in the UK, you can report the crime here: www.actionfraud.police.uk
America: If you are in America, you can report the crime here: www.ic3.gov
Canada: If you are in Canada, you can report the crime here: www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca
Australia: If you are in Australia, you can report the crime here: www.scamwatch.gov.au
If you are not 100% sure whether you are being scammed or not, then you can also contact me for advice.
Our planet is unfortunately riddled with vermin, and the online dating jungle is certainly a very popular habitat. But please don’t let the actions of these bottom feeders deter you from looking for your soulmate online. As providing you are prepared, know what to look out for, and join a reputable dating site. Then you should be able to successfully navigate the snakes, crocodiles and other nasties to find your very own Jane or Tarzan.