There used to be a time when if a woman wanted to con a man out of a lot of money she would have to befriend him, woo him, marry him then run off with the cash. These days it can happen in a virtual environment without anyone ever meeting personally. Not only that, it may not be a woman at all!
The Online Dating Scam
So how do these scams work? Like any con, it is about developing an false emotional attachment and feeling of attachment between the con artist and the victim.
Every day more people sign up to online dating agencies. Many specialise in helping people to meet a partner from overseas. The con artist will approach their victim and spend several months developing a relationship, slowly becoming more intimate. They are often skilled in determining when their victim may have fallen in love with them.
Once they have determined that you are hooked, they will then start talk about meeting up, always that they will come to visit your country. As they are not working and short of money, they will need money for flights, so you naturally send them money to cover the costs of booking flights and making all the preparations to come and visit you. And that is how the scam ends, you never hear from them again.
Now at first the victim will not believe it was a scam. “We were in love” is usually the reason for living in denial for so long. The victim of the scam may think that it could not be a scam, how could someone wait 2-3 months before taking £1000? Nobody can live on that. Well, you are never alone in these situations, one person may be stringing 10-20 people along at the same time, using different accounts, or even the same account.
There are many different scams, but ultimately each story will result in you sending money. Sometimes men pose as widowers, there are stories of men claiming that their wife and child were killed in a car crash – they create an immediate emotional attachment with women.
Good dating websites will vet members to ensure that they are really located where they say they are, that they are really who they say they are. Many online dating agencies fail to do this – these are often the free sites, which attract many people who feel that they do not have to pay for such services, or are drawn in by adverts and sign up, then within minutes are finding interesting people to chat with through the night.
Stay Safe Online
To protect yourself from becoming a victim of dating scams you need to just follow a few simple rules;
- Do not send money to people that you do not know – remain skepitcal
- Use a well known dating agency and review their safety advice
- Not all well known agencies can be totally safe, so scammers may get through
- Make use of technology such as Skype or Google Video Talk to see them and speak before ever committing to sending money
- Always ask many questions over the course of your relationship, and check that their answers do not change over time.
- If they ask you to send money for any reason, Google the details. Often they will ask for money to be sent to a bogus freight company – if it exists you should be able to find it mentioned in Google.
- Enjoy yourself online, do not fear agencies, but always be vigilant, especially if things seem to good to be true.
How To Check Photos
Scammers will often use other people’s photos, often taking them from photo sharing websites such as Flickr. There are some very useful online tools that will seek and find duplicate photos. Tineye.com is an amazing little service, just add an image URL or a page URL and it will determine if the image is duplicated.
If someone sends you an image attached to an email, you can just upload to Tineye.com or you could link direct to the image if it is on the public web. To get an image URL you just right click and image with a mouse then depending on the browser you use:
- In Internet Explorer chose properties, then copy the Address URL (it should end in jpg, gif, bmp or another image file type).
- In Firefox chose “Copy image location”
- In Chrome chose “Copy Image URL”
Then paste that URL into www.tineye.com and see what comes up. If the same image appears with different names, or across multiple dating agencies, then this should be a stark warning that it is fake.
If you have had any bad experiences with online dating websites share them here. The more stories that are shared, the more people that will be protected in the future.