Looking for love online? Be careful.
According to the FBI, online dating scams (or “romance scams”) are on the rise, and it’s no wonder. As dating apps and sites like Tinder, OKCupid, and Bumble continue to grow in popularity, more people are falling prey to scammers and catfishers. And make no mistake: it can happen to anyone.
Thankfully, with a few online dating tips and some common sense, you can avoid being their next victim. Here’s a quick rundown of online dating tips to protect your heart and wallet from serious damage.
Tip 1: Identify Red Flags
Knowing how to spot online dating scams is half the battle. Fortunately, almost all romance scammers share some of the same red flags. They often:
- Avoid divulging personal information.
- Offer inconsistent or contradictory information about their past or personal life.
- Are sheepish about meeting in person, making excuses.
- Ask to borrow money via PayPal, Venmo, etc. (the FBI estimates over $200 million a year is stolen by way of romance scams).
- Exhibit a “quirky” use of English with frequent spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, etc. (many scammers operate outside the U.S. in countries like Nigeria).
- Request illicit photos or videos (“nudes”) or consistently try to turn the topic to sex.
- Refuse to share social media profiles or claim they don’t have any.
Any of these ring a bell? Read on.
Tip 2: Do Your Research
According to eHarmony, a whopping 53% of people lie on their online dating profiles. While most are fibs about height or weight, some lies can be more serious: identity, marriage status, criminal background history, and more. That’s why it’s absolutely crucial to do a background check on anyone you meet online.
Here are a few ways to find the truth:
Reverse Phone Lookup
If your prospective partner has texted you or passed along their cell number, perform a quick reverse phone lookup to crosscheck name, location, and more. You may be surprised by what you find.
Social Media Search by Email
If you can’t find your potential partner on Facebook or Instagram, enter their email address or username in a people search engine. See if any social media profiles come up. You might find hidden pics and profiles they forgot or don’t want you to know about…
Criminal Background Check
Safety is paramount. Even if your date is who they say they are, they might not be forthcoming about their past. Always run a quick background check on them before you meet in person. It takes only a few minutes to pull up criminal records, arrest history, sexual offenses and more.
Tip 3: Trust Your Instincts
Ultimately, if something doesn’t feel right — whether that person seems too good to be true or they’re cagey about their personal life — it’s important to trust your intuition. Romance scammers are looking to get something out of you, usually money via direct request or compromising information for blackmail. Don’t let your guard down. Use these online dating tips to stay safe. If at anytime you feel uncomfortable, trust your gut and walk away.