Millions of people join online dating websites with hopes of finding the love of their life, but authorities say a growing number of people are using these websites to target your pocketbook instead. I've compiled a list of tips based on suggestions from the FBI, Better Business Bureau, and online dating sites.
There are multiple red flags to watch for when dating online, such as:
- Asking for money. Whether they claim to have a sudden emergency or need your help to pay an old bill, never give money to anyone that you meet online. Many times the person will ask you to wire money to them because they are unable to access their account, were involved in an accident, or lost their luggage while traveling. Don't give into the temptation.
- Insistence on communicating outside of the dating site. Some dating sites monitor exchanges for signs of fraud, so a fraudster may try to lure you away from the site. Be wary of someone who suggests you contact them through email or instant messenger right off the bat. That's how most of the fraud starts!
- Discrepancies in what they tell you. Save emails or chat logs, and pay attention to the details. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of an online relationship, so keeping communication on file can help keep your heart in check.
- Refusal to meet in-person. Scammers will often use distance or other excuses (like a last-minute flight cancellation) to avoid an in-person meeting.
- Anyone contacting you from overseas should be avoided. It's too difficult to verify their true identity, and statistically speaking, it's unlikely that they are the "real deal."
- Check the pic. Use Google Images or TinEye for a reverse image search. These searches will help you find out if the image has been used on other websites. Many "fake" photos are pulled from modeling agency ads, social networking sites, and stock images.
- To report an online romance rip-off, file a complaint with the FBI's Internet Complaint Center and with the dating website itself.
You can follow investigative reporter Keli Rabon on her Facebook page here.