In the pandemic, practically all of us are turning to the internet for connection to other people, whether that’s with family and friends or new acquaintances. Dating websites in particular have seen a significant uptick in use during the pandemic given how lonely people are now. However, with the increase in people checking out online dating, there’s also lots of growth in the number of con artists trying to swindle users for money on these platforms.
According to a new report from the Federal Trade Commission, dating app scammers made off with $304 million total in 2020, which amounts to roughly $2,500 on average per person conned. Unfortunately, it was a record year for the industry, and in some individual cases, unsuspecting singles lost close to $1 million to con artists on dating websites.
Singles over 50 are especially targeted, as they hold much of the wealth in the country, and scammers often try to take advantage of their naïveté about the internet to get funds.
The good news, however, is that there are plenty of simple steps you can take to stay safe online and continue your quest for love. Here are a few key tips to follow.
Keep your own details private.
On top of not sharing credit card numbers or social security information, generally keeping yourself a little mysterious online is important for making sure people don’t inadvertently gain access to personal information that they could exploit for financial gain. Don’t post anything that could give away your location, work, or family, and don’t respond to any inquiries about those types of details or questions about financial information or status.
Plus, keeping yourself a tad enigmatic on the internet is a good idea in general. It helps people who genuinely want to get to know you reach out to learn more!
Don’t give out money to other dating app users, period.
No matter what hardship another online dating user claims he or she is going through, avoid giving out money under any circumstances, especially if you’ve never met someone in person and can’t confirm an identity or situation.
Be suspicious if a person doesn’t want to meet up but wants to keep talking.
Feel like a relationship is only unfolding via text or emails? There’s an off chance that someone is just shy, but there’s a higher likelihood that it’s a scammer who has no intention of ever meeting with you. If a user is constantly coming up with excuses not to meet up and still tries to maintain a relationship through solely electronic communication, it may be time to back away.
Beware of anyone declaring their love quickly, particularly if you haven’t met in person.
One of the common ways that scammers reel people in is by playing into that desire for love and romance. (That’s why you’re on a dating site, after all.) If people are asking for money shortly after they’ve said something about having a once-in-a-lifetime connection with you or after they’ve alleged that they love you without meeting you, it’s time to listen to that little niggling voice in the back of your mind.
Don’t trust someone just because you found other profiles with similar names and images.
Catfishing, the practice where someone steals the online identity of other person, is a regular occurrence amongst scammers, so they may be using names, photos, videos, and other aspects of another person’s real digital identity. Again, you can’t trust anyone to a certain extent until you meet in real life.
If you do meet in person, find somewhere public to hang out, tell others where you’re going, and arrange for a friend or family member to call you during the date in case you need an out.
When it comes to online dating, there’s a lot to love about looking for a person to share your life with. By taking these few simple safety precautions, you can avoid these con artists and get back to finding your dream person.