If you went online this Valentine’s Day to give online dating a try, you may have received a few responses or even reached out to some new people yourself. However, before you pursue that online romance, it’s important to take precaution with anyone new that you meet, especially with strangers online.
Each year the number of reported romance scams rises significantly. Last year alone these scams soared to over 21,000 new cases. Those who fell victim faced financial loss, identity theft, viruses and malware. Unfortunately, the senior demographic is often the most targeted victims of romance scams as they are seen as the most vulnerable.
These cyber criminals usually work by creating fake profiles with phony names and photos…they may even steal the profile of a real person. They’ll lure you with sweet words and charm until they gain your trust. Then they’ll send you a message asking for money to help them out of an emergency or send you an email with harmful viruses attached.
How do you know if you can trust someone? There’s no clear-cut answer that will determine upfront whether or not someone is trustworthy and legitimate, but here are some big red flags.
- The relationship moves too quickly
- They begin to overshare personal information as soon as the first few interactions
- They refuse to meet in person, chat over a video call, or talk on the phone
- Their photos or claims about themselves simply seem too good to be true
- The person makes plans to meet in person but claims something tragic has happened right before you attempt to meet up or they simply fail to ever show up
Avoiding a Romance Scam
The best way to avoid falling victim to a romance scam is to guard your devices and yourself against any potential threats. With scammers constantly finding new ways of taking advantage of seniors, it’s important to take the right precautions.
- Protecting Your Profile
- Do not overshare too much information about yourself. Offer a glimpse into your life but not too much in case a scammer is searching. Never use your home address, email address, phone number or full name.
- Use photos that are unique and have not been used on other sites before. If you post a picture that is also on your Facebook, a scammer can do a reverse image search and locate your profile, giving them access to more information about you. Also make sure that the background of your photos don’t reveal clues to your geographical location.
- Installing the Proper Software and Settings
- Create a strong password that you have never used on another account before when creating any dating account. Never share passwords with your date – or even your friends/family.
- Install an antivirus software that will prevent viruses from downloading to your computer should a hacker try to send you one. If you are using a dating app on a mobile device consider downloading a mobile virtual private network which changes your internet address to prevent hackers from accessing your account when you are browsing on a wireless network that is not secure.
- Communicating Wisely
- Take the process slowly. The key to dating is getting to know each other on a deep level. Online relationships are known for moving at a faster speed than traditional dating methods, but it’s fine to go slow. Wait to meet in person until you are truly ready.
- Feel free to ask all the questions you want. This helps you get to know the person better and helps determine if you are being catfished.
- NEVER send money to anyone you haven’t met in person or don’t have a solid relationship with, period. Scammers are pros at telling sappy stories or urgent emergencies to con you. Drop them the moment they ask for cash.
- Go on Google and search the person’s full name. This will give you a clearer look into them as a person and their legitimacy. If anything is alarming or raises a red flag it’s better to know up front.
- Meeting In Real Life
- Go to a public place for your first interaction. This way people will be around if something goes wrong and your date will not know your home address.
- Notify someone ahead of time on where you will be going and discreetly check in with them during the date to let them know that everything is going alright.
- If you are uncomfortable for any reason, it is okay to leave. If your date really cares about you they will understand if you must leave.
Finding love online doesn’t have to be scary, however. More than one-third of marriages today started their relationship after meeting online. By taking the right precautions you can safely enjoy your experience with online dating sites…and maybe even find that love connection.