Is Your Online Date A Valentine’s Day Scam?

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and romance is on your mind. You’re searching for Mr. Right. The roses, teddy bears, and hearts in every shop and grocery store are pushing you towards rekindling an old flame or finding a new one. If you’re trying to reconnect with a loved one, you might try searching for their contact information on PeopleSmart, but if you’re looking for a new love, you might find yourself exploring an online dating website like eHarmony, Match.com, or OkCupid.

For every success story that comes out of an online dating website, there is a cautionary tale about a scam. The internet and its connectivity has provided infinite new possibilities for meeting people, making friends, and finding love, but scam artists also seize any opportunity to exploit online dating website users.

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Here’s how you might get scammed on an online dating website:

You’ve been searching for people who are date-able on this online dating website. You fill out your profile and receive a message from a man whose first message seems harmless, perhaps even kind and funny. His picture shows that he is attractive, maybe even model-attractive, with star-studded looks, sleeked-back hair, a pearly white grin, and glistening blue eyes. You reply to him, and when you receive a message in return, you begin to get suspicious.

The telltale signs that the man you’re communicating with is trying to scam you:
(1) He tells a tragic story that attempts to elicit your sympathy.
Maybe it’s a sob story you haven’t heard before. The deaths in his family, the financial troubles he’s going through, the injuries and medical bills - they all tug at your heartstrings. But the fact that his first conversation with you is taking advantage of your kind and generous heart is a sure warning sign.

(2) His messages begin to sound generic and pre-canned.
Maybe you’ve heard these lines before. There’s some distance and reserve to his tone, even though everything he says is meant to woo you. If you’re suspicious, you can copy and paste his messages into Google search and see other people have caught onto his scam.

(3) He asks you for money, a wire transfer, or a check.
When your online dating situation starts feeling more like a charity organization, you know it’s time to back away. Any time finances are brought up in an e-exchange, you should beware that you’re being scammed. No matter how tragic his plight, never exchange money with an individual you meet on an online dating site.

(4) His photographs are overly professional.
Are his profile pictures exclusively studio shots with professional lighting? Sunny, smiling, and maybe too good to be true? If all of his photographs are sans friends, in front of Malibu sunsets, and a little too picture perfect, maybe the man you’re talking to isn’t really who he says he is.

(5) His spelling and grammar are poor.
It’s natural in this day and age to use e-abbreviations like “lol” and “btw,” but is his grammar and spelling worse than the average joe you come across on online dating websites? Is he having difficulty stringing together comprehensible sentences? Poor spelling and grammar may give away the fact that he is an overseas or international scammer.

(6) He can’t seem to provide personal details about his life.
You’ve been telling him about where you go for lunch with your co-workers and the disastrous results of potty-training your new puppy. In return, he’s not really giving you anything: no details about his life, only sweet words to win your heart. The lack of personal details means that he may not actually be a real person.

How you can prevent online dating scams with people search:

(1) First and foremost, be cautious.
With this awareness of the frequency of scams in mind, treat every online interaction with the caution you would a stranger on the street. It’s okay to be friendly, but remember to protect your privacy, and don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions.

(2) Run a people search and obtain a background report on him to see if his identity is legitimate.
On PeopleSmart, you can look up his contact information and verify that he is who he says he is. Other places to search: pigbusters.net and romancescams.org will help you to check whether or not you’re entangled in a popular or well-known scam.

(3) Never give out banking, financial, personal or contact information that might compromise your identity.
As romantic as giving out this kind of information may seem, there’s really never a case for when it would be advisable to do so. Your romantic connection will not be stronger after wiring him five thousand dollars. If he asks for any of this kind of information, you should immediately be suspicious and end contact with him.

(4) Ask to talk to him on the phone.
If he’s real, he’ll sound legitimate on the phone. Most line scammers won’t be able to verify or match their identity via a phone call, so this might be a good test.

(5) Report him to the Federal Trade Commission.
Online scamming, or internet fraud, is a criminal offense. Your report to the FTC may save other people’s lives, so don’t be afraid to speak up and protect the integrity of the internet.

We care about your privacy and your online identity, and we hope you’ll take extra measures to protect yourself on the internet with the help of PeopleSmart, background reports, and contact information. With these precautions in mind, go celebrate Valentine’s Day with a joyful heart. Share this post with loved ones so that they can protect themselves. And tell them you love them too!

Read more about online financial scams here.