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Dating Online? Beware of Scams

Their Goal Is to Steal Your Money

Millions of Americans are using online dating sites to meet people. While many people form successful relationships, unfortunately, others are victims of scammers. The scammers create fake profiles using fake or stolen images.

The scammer can be very convincing but will eventually ask for money. Victims include men and women, young and old. According to the FBI, in just the last six months of 2014, Americans lost $82 million to online-dating fraud. That's just the amount that was reported. Many victims don't report the crime.

Some red flags that you're dealing with a scam include:

  • They want to quickly move the method of communication outside the dating site to personal email or messaging.
  • They set up face-to-face meetings but always cancel; they claim they can't come due to an unexpected event such as an emergency, being stuck out-of-town (or the country), or something business related. This occurs for every planned meeting.
  • They ask you to wire them money (or send it through another person) for a variety of reasons.

What should you do to stay safe while dating online? Here are some tips:

  • Read and understand the dating site's terms of service. Typically, dating services don't authenticate users.
  • Don't share your personal information such as your address, date of birth or financial details.
  • Be skeptical. Run a reverse image search of photographs using Google Images or Scammers typically use a script, so do a search to check if text has been reused.
  • Don't send money, no matter how persuasive they are.

For a detailed look at how the scam works, "Are You Real?" from AARP tells the story of one victim who lost $300,000. It also includes tips on recognizing the scam and dating safely online. AARP also has the Fraud Watch Network which has alerts, tips & resources for everyone. It has a section called "Meet the Con Artist" which includes "The Con Artist's Playbook".

Online Dating Scams from the FTC provides tips for recognizing a scam artist and what you can do about it.