Dating Over 50: How to Avoid an Online Dating Scam
BY KITT WALSH
Even at our age, when we are “supposed to know better,” our heads can get carried away by our hearts and we can find ourselves vulnerable to people who prey on others, via online dating scams. There is even a name for these unethical folks; they are called “catfish” and they make it their business to reel you into schemes to steal your identity, empty your wallet or, worse, marry you and plunder your estate. Here are some tips to help avoid becoming a victim in such a scam:
Read their profile closely: Read them out loud to see if they sound as though they may have been written by someone whose first language isn’t English. Unless the person says they hail from El Salvador or Croatia, this may be a tip-off they are not who they say they are. Check also for local references that are incorrect. If they refer to “Grinwich Vileeage”, you can bet they don’t live in NYC no matter what they say. Lots of spelling and grammatical errors can also mean not only meant they are not well-educated, but can reveal they are actually posting from another country.
Check for cut and paste info: See if the information or introductory letter they post isn’t posted elsewhere (you can type in the first few lines and Google them. Catfish scammers often just cut and paste other people’s info.)
See if it adds up: Crooks don’t necessarily spend a lot of time working on their profiles. If someone writes that they are 6 foot 4 and their weight is 100 pounds, you know something’s wrong.
Is the poster the same person?: Have you been exchanging emails with someone and you are slightly confused at the change of tone or mood of the communications? The person you are communicating with may be a different person each time. You may be being scammed.
Listen for a sob story: This may begin early in the exchanges as just an annoyance, but it will quickly become an emergency, and soon you will be asked to help solve the problemusually with money.
Photos can tell the true tale: Most people don’t have professional photos. If you see a watermark or a photo credit embedded in the photo they post, they may just have stolen it from a modeling or stock photo website. Use Google Googles to see if the photo they posted can be seen elsewhere online. Also check the photo for detailslike wedding rings, activities and locations to see if their photo matches their description of themselves.
Beware of “It’s too good to be true”: Not that you aren’t as cute as a button or a poor woman’s Harrison Ford, but let’s face it. If the person is drop dead gorgeous, why are they picking you? Or, for that matter, why are they on an online dating site? Either they aren’t that good looking (in which case it might be a photo scam) or they are (in which case, keep your hand on your wallet.)
Be cautious about leaving the site: If the person pushes to have you leave the dating site and message or email each other privately, be careful. They may be trying to avoid some of the built in safeguards the dating site offers. You should create a unique email address that is different than your personal or professional one when setting up your online profile.
Notice “too thick, too quick”: “Won’t stick,” my mother always used to say. If things are unfolding too fast or he/she reveals way too much about themselves asking for sympathy or tugging your heartstrings, back up. Catfish scammers always make the first (and fast) moves because to them time really is money.
They are “traveling” or working overseas: After an initial burst of passionate courting online, they may need you to book a flight or wire money so they can come visit you. (They will need the money due to temporary financial hardship and their need for money will be a good one…a death in the family, a family member who is ill.)
Asking for money is always trouble: Get away from them quickly. Close off all communication immediately. You now know why they found you so attractive.
How to protect yourself
Ask lots of questions and listen carefully to the answers. Ask questions in several different ways to see if you get different answers.
Don’t meet them in person right away. Ask to Skype with then so you can see and hear who you are truly dealing with. If they can’t or won’t agree that may be a red flag.
Check Facebook, LinkedIn and Google the person before you meet to see if the info matches their profile. Read through some of their past tweets on Twitter as well to see if their history is the same one they are sharing with you.
(If you men are tempted by a European model or online bride, Visit AntiScam.org and Russian Woman Blacklist).