Disclaimer: The below is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.
No matter your age, gender, or preferences, online dating can be tough. It’s especially difficult if you don’t know how to spot the signs of a dating scam.
In a Washington Post article, author Kate Kaufmann described how she was duped by a scammer on a popular dating website. She connected with “Dr. David Conner” on eHarmony.com, and soon the two were chatting on the phone and exchanging texts regularly. He said all the right things and had an impressive job. The supposed podiatrist preyed on Kaufmann’s naivety and willingness to put herself out there for a guy who seemed too good to be true.
Just before the two were supposed to meet face to face, the doctor was suddenly deployed to Syria. Kaufmann grew suspicious of Conner, and she started poking around for proof of what he’d told her. She enlisted the help of friends to try to find the doctor’s former wife’s obituary (none), his name on a list of United Nations doctors (not listed) — and that’s when Kaufmann realized she was in the middle of an online dating scam.
How Common Are Dating Scams?
Catfishing isn’t new, but it’s increasingly common, and there are probably more victims of dating scams than the numbers show. The FBI reported that Americans were tricked out of more than $211 million in 2017 alone — and that’s just what was reported. Because of the embarrassment associated with falling for a fraudulent lover, the BBB estimates that less than 10 percent of dating scam victims actually report financial losses.
Fortunately, Kaufmann realized what was happening before she was scammed out of any money. She reported “David” to the police and blocked his email address and phone number.
You can reduce your risk of becoming a victim of these scammers simply by knowing the signs of possible fraud. Check out this checklist to see if you’re possibly dating a catfisher:
1. They avoid sending photos or video chatting.
Two possible reasons: They’re shy, or they’re not who they claim to be.
2. When you talk on the phone, the connection is poor.
Scammers rarely give out a legitimate phone number. Instead they’ll use VoIP (voice over internet protocol), which is routed through a Wi-Fi connection instead of cell towers.
3. They claim to be local, but have a foreign accent.
An accent isn’t always a sign of a scam, but if they’re claiming to be in the same city as you and there’s a complicated story to explain a foreign accent, you might be want to be on guard.
4. They text or call a lot, and move way too fast.
Maybe they’re eager. Or they’re moving quickly because they’re actually a scammer and need to speed up their long con to get to their next target.
5. They call you “dear” or “sweetie” up front.
Using pet names right away could indicate that a scammer is trying to hastily forge an emotional connection.
6. They won’t meet you in person (or always bail at the last minute).
Cancelled flight? Sudden change of plans? If they can’t meet you face to face, it could be because they’re scared, or they’re scamming you.
7. They’re ridiculously good-looking and have an impressive career.
If someone is model-like in appearance and their photos are too perfect, it could be because a catfisher stole those photos. A reverse image search could reveal the truth. Similarly, if your match claims to be in a high-paying profession like medicine or law (each of which entail local admissions or certifications), you’ll want to investigate that further before thinking you’ve bagged a rich partner.
8. They have a sob story.
We all have drama and emotional baggage. If stories of a sick relative or dead spouse come out rather early on, this person is probably looking for sympathy — which will make you more likely to say “yes” to their next request…
9. They ask you for money.
Someone you’ve never met in person asks for large sums of cash, probably related to that sob story they just told you? Yeah, there’s a great likelihood that you’re being scammed.
Before you get too invested in anyone you meet online, do some research and run a public records search to make sure they’re legit. If you can confirm that they’re real and not catfishing you, then maybe they’re just shy and need some more time to open up. If you’re not finding any proof of their claims, though, it’s time to move on.