Posted by: silverliningsblog | August 27, 2020

How to avoid online dating scams

If you’ve ever had someone pretend to be someone they’re not online in order to get money from you, you’ve been catfished.

And you are not alone. 

Catfishing (also known as a dating or romance scam) is a multi-billion-dollar industry. Both amateur and expert criminals around the world prey on lonely people (women and men), telling them what they want to hear.

With women, a catfisher usually appears as a handsome man with a good career who says “you’re beautiful” and “I love you” often and quickly (appealing to a woman’s desire to be validated and loved). With men, they appear as young women sending sexy pics and telling them they’re handsome or hot (appealing to a man’s desire to feel young and manly again).

Once they’ve gotten your attention, they love bomb you and message you frequently, creating an online “relationship” with you to build your trust. They may even send you a gift so you think they’re real. Eventually, they ask you for money, with some kind of convincing reason.

If this has happened to you, don’t take it personally or think it means no-one is trustworthy. Just learn the signs to watch for and how to protect yourself (and pass this information on to your single friends!).

Common catfishing signs

Here are some common signs you may be dealing with a catfisher:

  1. They look like models in their photos – If they are drop-dead gorgeous and their photos appear to be professionally taken, the photos are most likely stolen from someone else. Most people get their friends to take photos for them (or take selfies). Another give-away is that aside from the pro shots, they have few or no candid photos showing them in everyday life (e.g. with their dog, playing sports or gardening).

  2. They have a limited social profile – If your potential love interest doesn’t have a lot of friends or posts showing interaction with others on Facebook (or their profile looks new), they are likely not real.

  3. They have poor English – Many of these scams are run from foreign countries, so English is often (though not always) their second language, and their spelling/grammar is poor.

  4. They love bomb you – They get serious way too fast, are over-eager to communicate with you often, and make early promises of love and affection.

  5. Their stories lack details – When you ask them about their life or history, their stories seem very vague, with few personal details and odd inconsistencies (e.g. they say they’re from a certain city but can tell you little about it).

  6. They avoid meeting in person – Probably the most classic sign of a catfisher, they say they can’t meet you in real life, and seem to have a good excuse (currently travelling for a lengthy period, working on an oil rig or diamond mine, on a military posting, etc.). They usually avoid video chats as well (claiming poor Internet connection), wanting to stick to texting/messaging and maybe the occasional phone call.

  7. They ask you for money – The inevitable goal of catfishing is to extort money from you. They will make up an emergency or sob story to convince you their situation is real. Common reasons include: medical (needing money for a prescription or surgery), travel (needing money to come see you), for a child (medical emergency or custody/divorce issues), for legal fees, they need help cashing a cheque, and so on. Don’t fall for it! Never send money (in any form) to a stranger (no matter how well you think you know them / how long you’ve been chatting online).

How to avoid being scammed

Some tips to avoid falling prey to a romance scam:

  1. It’s not a relationship if all you’ve done is chatted online. Understand that the real purpose of online dating is simply to connect with people you otherwise wouldn’t. It is not a good way to form a relationship. That must be done in real life…yes, even if you’re shy!!

  2. Don’t get swept up in praise and early promises of love. Take it slow. Ask questions. Learn to love and validate yourself so that you’re less vulnerable to someone who’s paying positive attention to you. 

  3. Research your date – Do your research to make sure this person is who they say they are. Google their name (and city if it’s a common name). Look them up on Facebook and LinkedIn. Do a reverse Google image search on their photos. You can even do a full background check using a service like Backgroundhawk.com (most of the time this isn’t necessary if you do the other checks first).

  4. You can’t know someone is real until you’ve met them live. And a phone call doesn’t count – they can hire someone to talk to you. So don’t spend weeks and months chatting online. Move to a real date in person within a week to two weeks tops. Yes, even during COVID (you can do a socially distanced walk or drink/coffee). If they won’t meet you in real life (they usually have a good excuse like work, travel, etc.), stop communicating with them and move on to someone who IS available.

  5. Trust your instincts – Whether meeting live or online, trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. You don’t need to know the reason why…trust yourself and move on!

  6. If someone asks you for money DON’T GIVE IT TO THEM!!! It doesn’t matter how good their reason is or how much you think you love them. This is a SCAM!! (See below for more on what to do instead.)

  7. Stop over-giving. Don’t share your heart so eagerly with someone you haven’t even met. Don’t give money to a stranger. Stop selling yourself out to people who will hurt you. Learn to heal your past (including trauma from your childhood and past relationships) so that you’re not so vulnerable to these types of people. You are a precious gift, so please start treating yourself like one, and stop giving yourself away so easily. (Reach out if you need help with this part.)

What to do if you’ve been catfished

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

If someone asks for money, immediately end all communication and block them. Don’t confront them – this can result in them luring you back, harassing you with threats, or in calling you at a later date pretending to be police or an investigative agency to get MORE money from you.

Save any records of communication with them, then report them to local police and to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. See Protect yourself from scams and fraud for more on what to do if you’ve been scammed.

Lastly, be sure to report them to the social media or dating site you were using as well, to help protect other innocent victims.

It’s unfortunate that catfishing is out there, but there are many good people online too…you just need to be aware of what to look out for, protect yourself, and above all else, learn to trust your instincts!

Resources

For more information on this important topic:

About the author

Karen Strang Allen is a love and empowerment coach for single women. She is the author of Free to be me: Create a life you love from the inside out! and international bestselling co-author of Unwavering Strength Volume 2. Widowed at 22 and separated at 35, Karen’s mission is to help single women feel great about who they are and create a life they love so they attract their dream partner. Learn more about Karen and check out her free resources and workshops at www.karenstrangallen.com.


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