Good lord, I can’t believe it. Me, a guy who is so security and privacy conscious, who is IT-literate and generally pretty smart, fell for one of the oldest scams in the book.
Well, not quite fell, but almost.
Scams are rife in the world of online dating. Lonely older people are easy to prey on. And having been lonely for a long time, and now in the mature (over 40) age bracket, it appears that I’m now a target.
So how did it happen? Loooong story. How about I try to move on from my embarrassment and just tell you what to look for:
- Beware of attractive younger people sending you winks/messages. If the message indicates they want to talk via email, rather than the date site’s messaging system, be cautious, and recommend using the dating site until you know them better. If they suggest using a dedicated messaging app like Yahoo Messenger, be aware that this app has been hacked in the past and has security issues. Also, if their email address sounds strange, that’s potentially another warning.
- If the person provides too much personal information about themselves, especially too early in the ongoing email conversation, be careful: they are trying to get you to provide your own personal details and earn your trust or sympathy. Scammers know that many people use their dates of birth in their passwords, so never give it out. Also, don’t send photos of yourself in emails, scammers can use you info to create false profiles to rip off other people.
- If the person’s story seems too good to be true, or too tragic to be true, it’s probably not.
- The scammers will be working on multiple people through that dating website at the same time, so be conscious of slips (i.e. they use the wrong name, or repeat several words several times as if they have inaccurately cut and pasted a response).
- If the writing in a message has poor grammar (especially where a person has stated on their profile they have high level or University-level qualifications), be aware that scams are often conducted from other countries where English is not the first language. Additionally, look for syntax changes in messages that sound like a different person is writing from the person who wrote before – it could be a team of scammers, rather than a single person.
- Be wary if the other party doesn’t want to talk with you on the phone or meet in person. If they are working from another country they know their accent will give them away and that there is no way they can meet, so they will put you off as long as they can.
- The scammer will play on your loneliness by finding out about you and talking about high levels of love/commitment very early, to gauge how easy it may be to manipulate you. They may even indicate that they have plenty of money (e.g. an inheritance or good job) so as not to arouse your suspicions of a scam.
- Be cautious if the person is overseas or says they are going to be travelling soon. Generally they will be going to a country where they will have a “mishap” (e.g. lose wallet/purse) and will then attempt to get money from you, based on whether they believe they have built enough trust to try it on. This may include bank account details. NEVER give your credit card or bank account details in an email.
Once the scammer is aware that you may be on to them, they will stop emailing you. Block their address so you don’t get anything from them again. Notify the dating website of the scam so they can remove the profile. It may be a good idea to change your passwords associated with the website and your email, especially if you use your name or date of birth in them.
There are lots of sites around that give out tips on how to avoid online scamming – I’ve added a few links below.
I’m glad I didn’t fall for it, but part of me wanted to, and that’s because lonely people make themselves easy targets, and thus, easy victims.
Don’t be a target, or a victim. There’s enough of those in the world already.
Australian Government Scam Watch – https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/types-of-scams/dating-romance
Romance Scams – http://www.romancescams.org/