Dating websites help people get together. That's pretty much the promise they give to their members. Whether you're looking for a fleeting, passionate encounter or marriage with children, there will be others there with similar interests and you never know, you might hit the jackpot!
Signing up for a dating site used to be a bit embarrassing. Family and friends might think you desperate and some would wonder what was wrong with you and why you couldn't find someone the regular way. These days it's widely accepted as a handy tool for meeting others, because so many people are online and everyone's busy. Why wouldn't you use the net to find love?
Unfortunately, with its rise in popularity, something creepy and unpleasant has infiltrated the world of online romance. It comes in many guises, but its goal is always the same. It's there to make money, and it will prey on your emotions to get it. Welcome to the romance scammer.
Romance scammers have infiltrated even the most established dating websites, and the tactics they use show a worrying insight into human psychology and the impact of emotional blackmail. Men and women alike have fallen for these scams. Men and women alike are being targeted every day. When you're seeking romance and this lovely person makes you feel beautiful, cared for and desired, you want to believe that it's true. That you, too, are deserving of love. That's how the scammers operate.
Fortunately, there are ways to recognize if you've been approached by a romance scammer. There are some giveaway signs that, if you know about them, will ring alarm bells and tell you to stay clear.
Many scammers send rather generic yet overly flattering first messages. They might tell you that you have a wonderful smile, even if you aren't smiling in your picture. There might be indications that they haven't read your profile. Whilst most people's first message will be somewhat cautious because you don't know the other person and how they will react to your approach, a scammer tends to express huge interest from the start. They might even suggest you add them on Yahoo or MSN messenger.
If you do respond, the push to get you off the site and onto a messenger service will increase. Sometimes they'll take down their own profile after communication has been established, and they might hint at you to do the same thing. After all, you've found the other, so why would you still be looking for dates? In reality, they don't want any competition because if you meet someone else, someone who lives closer to you perhaps, their plan won't work.
The romance scammer's strength lies in making you feel special. Though some have a profile picture of an "ordinary" person, most pictures will show an incredibly handsome man, or an amazingly beautiful woman. They also tend to be rich and successful... and they want you! They'll charm you, adore you, and convince you that you're the best thing that's ever happened to them.
They'll be a business man who's currently abroad, a widower with a small son or daughter, a loving, caring, intelligent woman who wants nothing more than to be with you. Their targets tend to be around 30 years of age and older, intelligent and professional, and looking for a long-term relationship. Scammers still tend to hold the view that a woman who's over 30 is likely to be, well, desperate to settle down. And anyone over the age of 30 tends to be reasonably established in their career, which means that they'll have money.
After a period of chatting online, and declarations of love and devotion, your new partner might wish to call you. If that happens, you'll likely notice an accent which is explained away because he or she grew up in another country... If you've been trusting enough and have provided your address, you might receive a gift. Some flowers, chocolates, maybe a plush toy. It's a sign of their affection, paid for with the money made from previous victims.
When it gets to this stage, the women will tell you that they want to meet you but alas, they have no money for a passport or visa. Will you help out? They'll be with you forever after that, if you click as well in person as you did online. The men are slightly more creative. They'll have to go on a business trip to settle this amazing deal, but after that they will stop by, they promise.
And then, the call for assistance arrives. They're abroad and it's their child's birthday and they can't get anything there! Can you please send something and he'll pay you back? The child so wants an iPhone or other expensive item. It would be sad if their birthday passed without a gift.
Or worse, disaster has struck! They had an accident, their child had an accident, they need medical aid and it's very expensive. They haven't got paid yet and it's an emergency. Please help and send money via Western Union! Maybe their visa has run out and they're trapped. Maybe the deal is taking longer than planned and they need help with hotel fees. If you love them, and want to be with them, surely some money is nothing compared to the future you will have together?
The unsuspecting victim will indeed want to help their new partner. They'll wire over the money and think that all will be well, but they'll soon receive another request, and another. As long as they're willing to send money and gifts, the scammer will keep up the pressure.
Sooner or later, the alarm bells will ring. After all the drama and all the concern and all the promises, their loved one never shows up. He can't. He's not who he said he was. The same goes for the woman, who most of the time is one of a group of men. They might have a few ladies working for them, but they're not in charge of the operation.
When you catch them out, they'll accuse you of being rude and breaking their heart. Then they'll move on to the next victim. Someone, somewhere will be looking for love, and they're there to flatter them and promise them the world.
Finding the right person is difficult enough without these people. Unfortunately they're there, so please be cautious. Know the signs, don't be afraid to ask questions, and don't hesitate to ask for a couple more pictures apart from the ones on a person's profile. And please, whatever you do, don't send money or expensive items. You deserve better than being taken advantage of.