Written by: Cally Worden
The internet is awash with dating sites and chat rooms where it’s possible to “meet” new friends and possible future partners. It opens up a whole world of positive opportunities for social interaction, both on and offline. Sadly, just as in the “real” world, there is a minority element on the net for whom finding love and friendship is the furthest thing from their mind.
What do online romance scammers do?
Online scam artists are out there; they are watching and take delight in presenting a carefully crafted image of themselves and their lives that bear no resemblance to reality. The most unscrupulous ones are waiting to strike the vulnerable with a view to cheating them out of cash, or coercing them into unwanted lifestyles.
How to protect yourself
Fortunately, it’s not all bad news. There are ways to guard against getting sucked into online trouble, and a following a few simple rules for safe-surfing can help you to be vigilant without becoming paranoid.
Check out their picture
Scammers often take fake photos from modelling sites. Most ordinary folk will use a shot taken by friends or family, in a more personal environment.
Look for inconsistencies
A person’s description of themselves can often reveal whether they are genuine or not. If someone claims to be over 6 foot, but only weights 10 stone, then something may be amiss.
Become a Mini-Poirot
Look for clues in everything you read or view about a person. Do they say they are single, but wear a wedding ring? Do they claim to be childless but have kiddie-stuff in their photo backgrounds?
Check out their occupation
It’s natural to want to make yourself look good in your profile, and women will often say they are a “Model”, or “Beautician” because of the image that projects. Men who are looking for a plausible fib will generally use professions like “Engineer”, or “Accountant”, as these professions make them seem affluent.
Phrases that implore you to ignore issues of distance, colour, race or religion because LOVE is all important are often used by scammers as a way of making themselves appear open and tolerant. They can also leave you feeling more receptive to issues that for whatever reason may be difficult for you. That makes you vulnerable.
Spelling and Grammar
You’re not a teacher, but basic spelling and grammar can reveal much about the origins of your new online buddy. An audio chat can be a good way to check out their accent and see if it matches the rest of their profile.
Watch out for over-familiarity
Getting familiar too soon is a common trick of scammers to lure you in. They know you may be keen to find love, and creating an illusion of cosiness with names like “honey”, “Babe”, or “love”, is a way of drawing you into believing you are onto something special. Talk of destiny, fate and soul mates works in the same way. Keep it a little more formal until you are ready to move things to the next level on your own terms.
Ask personal questions
Scammers don’t like to share personal information that may reveal their true identity, so pressing for details about where they are from, where they live, what they do, who they work for, and so on, can often trip them into inadvertently revealing that they are not who they say they are. Did they misspell the name of their home city? Maybe they are unaware of a key local landmark? And a quick call to their place of work will reveal if they are being truthful about how they spend their days.
Ouch, this one hurt to write, because it assumes all foreign contacts must be scammers. Obviously that’s not true, but statistics show that many are, so be extra vigilant if your contact claims to be from abroad.
Don’t give anyone money
No matter how well your online relationship is progressing, or how plausible the request for money sounds, it is very likely to be a scam. So many people get tricked into sending money to people to help them out of dire situations, and then never hear anything again. Don’t get caught out, even if they start to press you and try to make you feel guilty. The problem is theirs, not yours.
Now go and have fun!
These basic online safety rules are easy to remember. If you are looking for new friends and partners be aware that scammers do exist, and protect yourself by keeping your social usernames and passwords different from those you use for your everyday life. And never give out information that will allow a new online “friend” to locate you unless you absolutely trust them. Try always to meet on a few occasions in a neutral location first.
And now go and have fun! That’s what it’s all about after all!