How to Avoid Romance Scams (And Enjoy Online Dating)
Looking to re-enter the dating scene via a website or app but unsure where to begin? Meeting the “right” person is possible with companies like Match.com, SilverSingles, and OurTime. However, with opportunity comes potential trouble, and in the case of the increasing popularity of dating sites, romance scams are on the rise.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), romance scams accounted for $304 million in losses in 2020, an uptick of 40% from 2019. The older the victim, the more money they tend to lose to this type of crime. The FTC reports that in 2021, people 70 and over lost an average of $9,000, compared to $750 for victims aged 18 to 29.
So, how do you protect yourself from fraud while still searching for love? Here are several tips on how you can find romance without falling victim to a scam.
What are Romance Scams?
Finding love and companionship through online dating sites is a common way to meet Mr. or Mrs. Right. However, lurking cybercriminals eagerly await lonely hearts, which tend to make for vulnerable prey.
Con artists assume fake names and present themselves as caring, affectionate, and trustworthy companions. Unfortunately, romance scammers use close relationships to manipulate and steal money from those looking for love.
How romance scams typically work
You set up your profile on a dating site. Before you know it, you get a notification of a potential match, or someone reaches out to you via social media. Your prospective mate is everything you’re looking for — attractive, personable, intelligent and humorous.
Your suitor claims they live in another part of the U.S. or resides abroad due to business obligations or military deployment. Eager to get to know you, the scammer suggests moving the relationship to a chat app, like Google Hangouts or email. Over time, you fall head over heels and plan to meet in person. However, your match always has a reason they can’t show.
Requests for money via gift cards, bank or wire transfer, prepaid debit cards, or cryptocurrency usually begin “due to some emergency,” and they can be very creative at tugging on your heartstrings. Although the con artist insists they will pay you back, that day never comes. The longer you remain in the relationship, the more money they will request until you realize the situation for what it is — a romance scam — and end the relationship.
Tips for Avoiding Romance Scams
Although it may be difficult to walk away from what you believe to be true love, if you notice any of the above warning signs or feel that your mate is taking advantage of you, it’s time to walk away.
Always use a secure browser like OneLaunch when you set up dating profiles and exchange information online. Here are a few more tips that can help prevent you from becoming a victim and losing money to a romance scammer:
- Be careful about what information you make public online, like personal data in your dating profile and post on social media. Scammers can use this information to target you.
- Do a reverse image search on the person’s photos. If using Google Chrome, hover over the image, press the right-side button on your mouse, and select Search image with Google Lens; this will display all the websites where that image appears.
- Research the person’s name and other details they’ve shared about themselves, like where they work or live, to see if they match up.
- Ask lots of questions.
- Never rush the relationship, even if your match pushes it.
- If your suitor seems too perfect, chances are something is awry.
- Stop all communications immediately when you suspect fraud.
- Be cautious if your match promises to meet but comes up with an excuse why they can’t. If the excuses continue over time, be suspicious.
- Never share things that one can use to extort you, like inappropriate photos or financial information.
- Never send money to someone you have only communicated with online or by phone.
If you think you’re being scammed, report it to the website or app where you met the scammer and to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. If you’ve sent money to this individual, contact your bank right away, or if you paid with gift cards, the company that issued the cards. You may be able to either stop payment/transfer or get a refund.
Dating Sites and Apps for Seniors
You can still enjoy dating online, as long as you follow safe practices. Here are some reputable sites, all of which have best practices and resources you can use in case you suspect fraudulent behavior. The following list includes online dating sites and apps that are especially good for older adults.
OurTime: The OurTime community is exclusive for people 50 and older looking for romance, friendship, or travel companions with whom you can spend time doing local activities. Open the user’s profile, scroll to the bottom, and tap the triangle warning sign icon to report bad behavior. Click Report Member to send a confidential report. OurTime offers a contact form to report a concern.
SilverSingles: Before you fill out your SilverSingles profile, you must complete an in-depth personality test. This dating website caters to those 50 and older. Human representatives check and verify every profile. However, if you ever feel a profile contains false information or someone behaves fraudulently, email SilverSingles’ customer care department.
Match.com: This partner site to OurTime isn’t senior exclusive; however, it is one of the largest and oldest dating sites for adult singles of all ages. The Match.com customer care team screens every profile and photo before posting them to the site. You can report concerns or fraudsters via the Match.com contact form.
Looking for love doesn’t have to result in you being scammed. Exercise caution and follow the above tips to avoid romance scams, and you can enjoy finding love, companionship, or friendship without financial and emotional ruin.