Online dating is a great way to form connections and find love. Unfortunately, many online scammers have also found online dating to be a great way to prey on users and rake in money. Article Sponsor:  Concrete Staining Tulsa

And it looks like their scams are only getting better. In 2019, online dating app and website users reported a combined loss of more than $200 million to romance scams to the Federal Trade Commission. This is a whopping 40% increase from 2018. More people reported losing money to the FTC because of online romance scams than any other fraud.

Luckily, there are ways to avoid these scams. It all comes down to being knowledgeable, and knowing what to look for.

Let’s start with how these scams work. The first thing the scammer will usually do is create a fake online identity in order to lure you in while protecting themselves. Frequent false identities include military workers, air workers, or people working otherwise abroad. They will work hard to convince you that they are real, and might even phone you by way of introducing themselves.

While these online romance scammers will often express strong emotions towards you early on in the relationship, a marker of these scammers is their patience. They might spend months gaining your trust by sending you gifts, promising to purchase plane tickets to visit you without ever actually doing so, and sharing what you might believe to be personal information.

Once the scammer has gained your trust and your defences are down, they’ll start asking you for money. Often, they’ll do this by claiming they have some sort of emergency, like medical expenses, and can’t afford it themselves. They may also say that they want to visit you, but aren’t able to afford travel costs themselves. They might also request your help paying off debts or covering customs fees.

If you’re on any online dating apps or websites, there are a few things you should be on the lookout for.

The first is that they will often claim to live in your area, but are overseas for work or travel. This will be their reason for their inability to meet you in person, and also serves as a convenient excuse to request money from your for traveling purposes.

They will also profess their love for you very early on in your relationship. If the person you’re chatting with tells you they have strong feelings for you after only a few instances of contact, this is a huge red flag. They may also try to move you away from the dating app, and request communication solely through email or private chat methods.

You may also find that the information they give you about themselves is inconsistent. Perhaps the picture they use on the dating app looks different than the way they describe themselves. Be on the lookout for consistency in the person’s story. If things seem to stop making sense, trust your gut.

The next thing to be aware of is that after they have lured you off the dating site and gained your trust, they will begin to ask for money or for items to be sent to them. This might not happen right away, and it could even be months or years before they feel they’ve lowered your defenses enough. They might tell you they need the money for surgery or hospital bills for medical emergencies, or to cover travel expenses to come and see you.

In the latter case, you’ll find that they keep canceling the plans to come and see you, claiming there are emergencies that are preventing them from coming.

If they request money from you but you don’t send it right away, you might find that their messages start to become more urgent.

If you think the person that you’re chatting to might be an online scammer, it’s important to stop communicating right away. Never send money to someone you’ve never met in person. If you have sent money already, contact your bank, the dating site, as well as the Federal Trade Commission.

Some other tips for keeping safe from online romance scams is to be careful about what information you share with the person you’re talking to. Many of these scammers will use compromising photos or information to blackmail you.

Always go slow when talking to someone, and ask plenty of questions. Keep an eye out for inconsistency in the information they’re giving you.

You can also check out the person’s profile pictures to make sure it’s legitimate by doing a reverse image search on Google. Just right click the picture, select “Search Google for image,” and Google will pull up other instances this picture has been used. If the image shows up under a name different than the person you’re talking to, you can bet they’re using it to hide their real identity.

Losing money to these scams won’t just put you in a bad spot financially. It can also be traumatizing emotionally. So use the tips in this article to look out for scammers, and if you believe you’re the victim of a scam, report it immediately to the authorities.

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What Do You Need to Know About Online Romance Scams?