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Steps That May Help You Avoid Dating Scams
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- When dating online, always use professional dating websites. Some basic research beforehand should reveal if the site you are considering has a good reputation. The dating site you use should allow you to message other users through their own integrated system without you having to give your personal contact details to people. Take the time to explore the dating site thoroughly and understand how it works before making contact with potential dates.
- If the person claims he or she is from your area, but states they are unable to meet you in person within the first few weeks of contacting you online, for whatever reason, be very cautious about revealing any personal details to them.
- Do not give out personal information, such as your phone, email or home address details too early in a new online relationship. For the first few weeks at least, it is wise to stick to the dating service's internal contact system. Do not give in to pressure to reveal personal contact information before you feel comfortable doing so. If threats are made that you must not love them as much as they love you if you refuse to do so, this may be a red flag. A genuine person should respect the pace you wish to progress the relationship.
- Be aware of how much information you are being asked to disclose. Is the other person reciprocating by willingly sharing information with you? Or does it seem that they are trying to get significantly more personal information out of you than they are disclosing about themselves? Often scammers are adept at getting you to tell them information about yourself while sharing very little real details about themselves.
- If the other person is sharing information about themselves, be aware if details in their stories change. Did they call you by the wrong name, or suddenly refer to themselves by a different name? Often scammers are operating under multiple false aliases and are using a script to communicate with people, so they can inadvertently use the wrong names and details when communicating with you. If they do make such mistakes, the scammers will quickly come up with a story to explain the inconsistencies. But such errors should certainly be a warning flag.
- NEVER send money if they ask for it no matter how dire or urgent the supposed emergency. The person may state they have no close family or friends or business associates, or that they cannot trust anyone else. Their stories may sound quite plausible at first. However, regardless of how plausible the story might seem, NEVER send money to them.
- If you do not send them money as requested, the requests will increase in urgency and the pressure they put on you will escalate accordingly. If this pressure does not work, they may change tack somewhat by asking for a much smaller amount than they originally requested. For example, they may claim that they have managed to source most of the money from elsewhere. These two psychological techniques are known as “foot in the door” or “door in the face” and research has shown that they are often very effective.
- NEVER agree if the person asks you to use your own bank account to process cheques or electronic money transfers for what ever reason. This may well be an attempt to launder the proceeds of crime. Any such request should be taken as a red flag.
- Be aware that scammers will ask lots of questions about what you believe to be your ideal relationship and then present themselves in that way to you.
- If friends or family express concern about the relationship, it is wise to heed their warnings. Often, others who are not so emotionally involved, are able to see indications that things are not as they seem and become rightfully suspicious of your online "friend's" motives.
- NEVER purchase an airline ticket and fly to a foreign country to meet someone who has requested money from you. Victims who have taken such actions have been kidnapped and even murdered.
- Always tell family or friends if you are going to meet someone from a dating site and always meet first in a public place. Never meet at first in a private home or hotel where help is not close at hand should things go wrong.
- Be aware of your own past history (especially if it has involved an abusive relationship), feelings of loneliness, mental health vulnerabilities or fantasy of an ideal relationship. Scammers can be quick to pick up on vulnerabilities, and will try to present themselves in such a way to fulfill your dream. They often may engage in daily phone contact or texts, to say good-morning and state how much they love you or to wish you goodnight at the end of every day.
- Be wary if the person claims to be a citizen of your country but cannot answer simple questions you ask about the area, customs or suchlike. They may state they have to use the bathroom or attend to another call, in order to give themselves time to look up the answers to your questions online. Be wary if they do not appear to have local knowledge.
Last updated: February 21, 2013
First published: February 21, 2013
Written by Deborah A. Christensen
2012 April, Whitty, Monica Prof & Buchanon, Tom Dr, The Psychology of the online dating romance scam, University of Leicester, United Kingdom
2012, Tracey, Joe, How to avoid falling prey to online dating scams, Online Dating Magazine
2012 March 28, Online dating scammers looking for money not love, ScienceDaily, Your source for the latest research news