Are online dating scams something to worry about?
Last month I hosted a panel on my radio show to discuss online dating and how to make it work for you. The intention was to offer tips for using social media and apps like Tinder, etc to get the best results. The panel consisted of; Sandra Carusi from Inside Jokes, Lola, a beautiful 40 something woman who has been a frequent online dater for over 10 years, Paul Loduca from Paul Loduca Comedy and Dean Young from Tinder Tales.
Well, we did discuss online dating, apps and social media, etc., but the big take away for me was the prevalence of fear of online dating scams.
Dating site reviews say 60% of adults find online dating to be more efficient and a lot more appealing than the old fashioned way of meeting people, like going to bars and clubs or being set-up by someone you thought was your friend. And, statistics show that it’s a very robust industry, earning over 1.7 Billion Dollars a year. in other words, it isn’t going anywhere.
Of course all well-meaning technology designed to make our lives easier will attract predators bent on exploiting every possible vulnerability – online dating is no exception. The fear of being victimized by an online dating scam runs deep and strongly influences our decision to swipe right or left.
There are different degrees of online dating scams running the gamut from misrepresentation to criminality. The repercussions are equally vast, from mere disappointment to a completely ruined life ~ and I’m not being melodramatic.
A friend told me that a guest she invited to an office Christmas party recognized her boss from pictures associated with a lot of very rude comments and messages on a disreputable website (I won’t post the name here.) Needless to say his picture was there, so she crossed her fingers and told her boss about it, he was mortified. He was on an online dating site, but not that one. Someone jacked his pictures and made him the face of lewd enough behaviour that could cost him his job had he not been able to get in front of it.
Lives can and do get ruined. If you’ve read my new relationship & dating advice book you’ll know about a man whose life was completely shattered by the same kind of online dating scam involving identity theft. Despite being absolved of any and all guilt, the internet doesn’t admit it erred. People are very quick to ‘share’ and ‘retweet’ the salacious but are in no hurry to clear the unjustly accused, that just isn’t sexy.
I don’t want to scare you away from online dating or dating apps, etc. they can be incredibly advantageous. In the United States alone there are over 54 million single people. That’s enough people to fraudulently win an election, and of those 54 million people, 49 million have tried online dating, that’s a lot of options!
You can take steps to minimize falling prey to an online dating scam and to ensure you aren’t mistaken for being a scammer yourself. Take Paul for example, he made a rule not to meet anyone who doesn’t first provide ‘proof of life.’ They would need to communicate in real-time via Snapchat, Skype or Facetime to prove they were an actual human being who does resemble their profile picture. Not a bad idea.
To avoid online dating scams, follow these 4 rules when you sign up for an online dating account:
- RESEARCH: You shouldn’t be on every existing dating site and/or app. Pick one that best suits what you’re looking for.
- CATEGORIES: Put yourself in the right category. If you’re looking for a committed relationship with marriage potential, don’t be in the ‘casual dating’ category as well. It doesn’t maximize your options, it’s considered a form of ‘dating scam.’ If your intentions are of a more permanent nature, you will not be content with casual dating, suggesting otherwise is a misrepresentation.
- PROFILE PICTURES: Ideally you should have about 3 pics online: One head shot, one action shot and one full-body shot. These pics should not be older than 3 months. If you’ve got a picture of yourself when you were 20 pounds lighter and had a head full of hair when the reality is completely different, you are committing the first degree of online dating scams: misrepresentation. Oh, also, keep your shirt on unless you’re just looking for a hook-up.
- PERSONAL DETAILS: Studies show that the top 3 things men lie about are: Job, Height and Weight. The top 3 things women lie about are: Weight, Age and Physique. With the exception of ‘job’ the lies are going to be exposed within the first 60 seconds of meeting – your ‘winning personality’ doesn’t have time to make up for the fact that you perpetrated an online dating scam – he’s disappointed, she’s disappointed and neither can trust the other – swell way to start a relationship.
If you follow these rules you are well on your way to having a better experience than you would if you choose instead to be less than forthcoming. But, because not everybody is going to follow these rules you’ll have to be a bit of a detective, so I’ll close with a bonus, here are a few clues to spot an online dating scammer:
- Short Profiles
- Rare use the pronoun “I”
- Negation (i.e. ‘not boring’ instead of ‘exciting’)
That should get you started – if it doesn’t go as well as you’d hoped, don’t forget I have a ‘Bad Date’ blog section too.