How to Avoid Romance Scams

A woman online dating and avoiding romance scams.

It’s no secret that social media and digital dating products have made it easier for people to connect, communicate, and meet up with each other. When you’re online dating it can be a lot of fun and it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of meeting new people. But while you’re having fun, it’s important to remember that some people aren’t always what they seem and you still need to watch out for yourself.

It’s an unfortunate reality that as the popularity of social networking and dating sites has grown, some people have seen them as an opportunity to deceive others. The majority of online daters are people who are genuinely interested in meeting someone and starting a relationship, but online dating scammers  and romance scams do exist.

To help you learn how to tell the difference between someone who’s legit and someone’s who’s looking to take advantage of you, Zoosk has teamed up with Sift Science to create a few tips on how to avoid dating site fraud.

Online dating is a great way to meet your match. More people than ever are using online dating to meet someone they’re interested in. The downside? Some of those people might be fraudsters. According to the FBI, Americans lost $230 million to romance scams in 2016. That was a whopping $10,000 per victim. And only 15% of fraud victims report their losses to the FBI, so the real number could be higher. The majority of online daters are real people who are genuinely looking for someone. So how do you know who’s the real deal? Spotting a scammer can be really easy once you know what to look for. We partnered with dating site Zoosk to put together a few tips to help you stay safe. Be vigilant. Don’t get so excited about someone that you forget to look out for yourself. If your admirer is overly passionate, declaring their love within moments of meeting you or asking you to be in a relationship immediately, they could be trying to gain your trust to take advantage of you. Be proactive. Don’t be afraid to Google your admirer. The only thing better than a romantic aura of mystery is not getting scammed. Be alert. Look out for red flags that your admirer isn’t who they say they are: many spelling and grammar errors, inconsistent stories, excuses about why they can’t meet up or talk on the phone, or details that don’t add up. If your admirer says they have a job that always requires them to be out of the country or unable to communicate with you, that might be a red flag, too. Be smart. Don’t be too quick to share personal information or photos with people you haven’t met. They could use them to scam or blackmail you. And if your admirer starts demanding your information, run as fast as you can. Be cautious. Never send money to a stranger. If your admirer ever asks you for money in any form — such as bitcoin, wire transfer, or money order — they’re probably a fraudster. And if they ever ask you to transfer money for them, they’re probably laundering money.

So now that you know the basics, here are some specific red flags to watch out for:

Tip #1: NEVER give someone money. 
Bottom line, there is no reason for anyone to ask you for money or your financial information while you’re online dating. Ever. If someone asks you for money, stop your communications and report him or her immediately.

Tip #2: Don’t get tricked into moving communication off of the app too soon.
Because dating apps are actively trying to catch fraudsters, the fraudster will often try to get you to move your communication off of the app as soon as they can. That way they have more information about you (such as your email or your phone number) and it’s less likely they’ll get caught. And if your new love suddenly isn’t a member anymore, they may have been a fraudster who got caught and had their account disabled. So get to know someone better on the app you’re using, then give out your contact information once you know more about them.

Tip #3: Claiming to be in the military, on an oil rig, or working overseas are common stories scammers tell. 
Because scammers need to have a believable reason why they can’t meet up with you, they use a few of the same scenarios—working on an oil rig or serving in the military are two of the most common, but be weary of anyone who’s always making excuses about why they can’t meet up with you in person.

Tip #4: Scammers often get the details wrong. 
Because scammers are communicating with a lot of potential victims at once, they often get details like your name or even their own name wrong. Other red flags are if the person you’re talking to is always vague, repeats the things you say, or dodges your questions and doesn’t answer them.

Want to learn more about romance scams? Check out Sift Science’s infographic on Fraud in the World of Online Dating or take a look at some of the examples of things scammers say in Zoosk’s Online Dater’s Guide to Romance Scams.

Megan Murray

Editor-in-Chief of The Date Mix

Megan Murray is the Editor-in-Chief of The Date Mix and works at the online dating site and app Zoosk, that has over 40 million members worldwide. She splits her time between writing for The Date Mix and working on the Zoosk product, which gives her behind-the-scenes knowledge about the world of online dating.

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