Figures from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau show the number of people in the UK who were defrauded via online dating scams reached a record high in 2016. Dating fraudsters conned a record 3,889 victims out of £39 million last year, the average figure lost being £10,000. Everyone thinks it would never happen to them, but the ways that the fraudsters gain your trust and get inside your head can be subtle and emotionally manipulative.
Don't think it will never happen to you, it really can happen to anyone - just make sure that you keep your guard up, be alert, bear these five tips in mind, and most importantly and don't give anyone any money for any reason.
1) I repeat: In online dating, don't give anyone any money, for any reason. I've repeated this because it's hugely important! It doesn't matter whether you've been exchanging messages for three weeks or three months - or even three years - scammers have all the time in the world to nurture prospects. They are in it for the long haul, and you aren't the only one they are grooming. If a partner is asking to borrow money from you run a mile. If money is the reason they can't come and meet you, run a mile. Don't give anyone anyone any money for any reason - you won't get it back and they are not interested in a relationship.
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2) If the messaging period extends over more than a week - or two at the most - the chances are it's never going to happen. Most people enter online dating with the hopes of going on dates and finding a partner. If a meet up is not on the cards move on. Meeting in person is often the first stage of the con with scammers. Something will come up preventing the meet, which they need money for. You will be contacted with a sob story, possibly them or their son/daughter is injured or they are in sudden financial crisis or even danger. Only you can save them! Scammers very rarely meet in person, there will always something that prevents it.
3) Don't let your messages get too intimate or full of declarations love before you have met, or in the very early stages. Love bombing rarely ends well and it's not a healthy start. If you get carried away with the declarations of love you will be so emotionally invested in the relationship you won't be able to recognise the red flags when they are right there in front of you.
Many scammers will string out the romantic messaging to create a false sense of intimacy and trust. The messages will be constant and endless so that they become a constant fixture in your life. Love will be declared and 'secrets' shared. Your life will revolve around these messages and you will feel so close to this person. It is not real. They are bombarding you with messages to make sure that your life and your head is full of them, to make sure that you won't want to meet any one else, and to make sure that you will be ripe for the taking when they initiate the scam.
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4) Don't leave the dating site too soon. Another favourite move of the scammer is to get you to leave the dating site messaging environment, moving to text/Whatsapp/email. Stay on the dating site! They want you to move to off-site messaging because if on the dating site, you are able to report them when you see through their scam. Also, leaving the site removes a virtual 'barrier' in your communication. They now have direct access to you via your phone at all times - you will get their message immediately. They will be very eager for you to respond quickly too! Finally. it means you won't be on the site looking at other profiles, or receiving/sending messages with other people. They are isolating you,
5) Do all elements of their character tie up? Look at their occupation, educational level, nationality, photos, home town, and linguistic clues such as sentence cohesion, choice of language, grammar, sentence structure. Are there any anomalies? Reverse image search their photos - you can do this in Google images. You may find their photos elsewhere on the web, as they have stolen the photos from somewhere else online.
In online dating, always listen to your gut feeling. If you aren't sure about certain behaviours or incidents but can't put your finger on why, if it seems too good to be true, if you find yourself worrying about what's going on - cut all contact and move on. Instincts are usually right! Keep your self safe online.
You can get free online dating advice and profile services at www.lovedoctoruk.com
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