Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Online Dating, Scams, And How To Avoid Them

Many people have yet to grasp the reality that dating scams are not going away. You don't have to go online to be taken advantage of in love. Unfortunately, you can meet a dating scammer in any social setting.. in a bar or pub, at a singles party or dance class, on a cruise, in a social group or gathering, or at the gym. But the internet opens a whole new world for the very efficient groups of people who are completely devoted to tricking people into handing over their money to those they have misled to love and trust as their romantic partners. Most people say it could NEVER happen to them. But it can.

Rather than trying to hide the problem, at ConnectingSingles we strive to provide the safest environment possible. We believe that if our members are aware of the possibilities, they can beware of the problem and, therefore, prevent it before it even starts.

How do they work?

It all starts like an innocent online flirt, and in a surprisingly short amount of time and through a surprisingly few number of chats and emails, feelings grow progressively until the victim starts to feel an emotional attachment to the scammer. Usually the scammer will come up with an original and believable excuse for needing money. This can happen gradually or come out of the blue as a sudden emergency.

After the victim hands over the money, two things can happen: things can go BAD, or they can go WORSE.

When things go BAD:

When the scammer receives the money, he disappears, not to be seen online again.

Does this mean that this particular scammer is not going to scam again in the future? Unfortunately not! We never really get to meet the real identity of the scammer. We only knew his/her online persona. Once this is busted, s/he will create a new innocent-looking guy or girl and target the next victim.

When things go WORSE:

Believe it or not, the above scenario is not the worst.

If the scammer considers that there is more money to be ripped off this specific victim, s/he goes for more. S/he will make up new stories and new excuses to get the victim to keep handing over more and more money.

Unfortunately, due to the romantic connection that the victim thinks s/he is enjoying, s/he is already predisposed to believing the scammer's lies. Victims are typically kind and loving people who fall into 'taking care' of the scammer so naturally, without even thinking about what is really going on.

How can you protect yourself from scammers?

Unfortunately these people are good at what they do, otherwise they wouldn't be so successful at deceiving so many (often working on hundreds at one time). However, if you take into account some simple precautions, you can stay on the safe side of online dating:
  • Refuse to send money for ANY reason! Repeat. NEVER SEND MONEY!
  • Do not give your email to anyone you have just met. Scammers want your email address so they can communicate with you outside of the moderated environment we provide.
  • More photos. Ask them to upload more photos to their profile showing them outside their home, inside their home, with the pet they told you about, with today's newspaper. Ask them to upload a photo of them next to their computer with the ConnectingSingles homepage or their profile open on the monitor. Most scammers use model's pictures they took from a modeling website or catalog. If they say they can't upload a photo to the site but will email it to you, remind them that if they can email the photo to you, they can also email or mail the photo to ConnectingSingles to be added to their profile for them free. Are you afraid your request may insult them, or they may get mad? You caution your children about things like this! Why should you not question an online stranger who you are considering taking into your life? And why should they get angry if they truly are as they have presented themselves?? Do you really want to get to know someone better who early-on gets mad at you over a simple reasonable request.
  • Be patient. It takes time to find The One. Don't let anyone rush you. In the meantime while you're waiting for that to happen, make new friends on the site by posting in the forums, entering a journal in a ConnectingSingles blog, sending virtual cards and flowers, viewing or adding favorite youtube videos, taking or creating a quiz or a poll. There's lots to do at ConnectingSingles, and it's all totally free to do.

For a list of common warning signs check out our current scams page. We take preventing dating scam seriously at ConnectingSingles. More about dating scam in our next post.

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