I was so happy when I saw my friend had changed his Facebook status to “in a relationship.”
He had been single for a long, long time.
His last girlfriend had really messed him over. I wasn’t sure he’d trust anyone again.
He was the kind of guy who was slow to warm up to new people anyway. He didn’t get out a lot. And I think he’d never really gotten his confidence back.
So, of course, the next thing I wanted to know was: who was this mystery girl??
How did he meet her? Was she nice? Would there be wedding bells in their future?
He hadn’t posted any couple pictures yet. And I was about to find that there was a good reason for that…
He hadn’t actually met her yet.
They’d fallen in love online. She lived somewhere, he said, in Africa. He was hoping to get her over for a visit.
I’ll leave you to guess who was paying for the plane tickets…
Don’t lose your heart and your wallet online. Use these 3 tips to spot online scammers before they hook you.
Spot Fake Dating Profiles
It can happen to anyone. The number of romance scams reported to the FTC has nearly tripled in the past 5 years. Last year folks lost over $200 million to romance scams.
A lot of those scams are happening online.
One study found that 1 in 10 online dating profiles are fake. Men’s profiles were more likely to be faked than women’s. The highest fraud rates came from Nigeria, Ghana, the Netherlands, Romania, and South Africa.
So how do you spot these fake profiles?
They tend to come in two kinds: either the profile is mostly empty, because the scammer didn’t bother to fill it out, or the profile is too good to be true.
Fake profiles tend to include what’s known as “power words” such as widowed, Ph.D., engineer, self-employed, even royalty.
If his profile pic looks like a modeling headshot, be very suspicious. The scammer could have grabbed it off the internet.
There’s one way to find out. Download his profile pic from the dating site, then do a reverse image lookup on Google. Go to Google Images, then click on the camera icon next to the search bar, where it says, “Search by image.” Upload the image, and see what Google can find.
If you’re lucky, Google will find the real guy, and everything will check out. If things don’t check out, report the scammer to the dating site.
Save The “I Love You’s” for When You Meet
The second thing you should do is avoid falling for the fantasy of “love at first text.”
I know how powerful love at first sight is. But remember that it’s love at first SIGHT. You have to see each other face-to-face and be in each other’s presence before you can really know how you feel about each other.
I’m sure you’ve experienced that thing before where you met someone online who you thought was really amazing. You had these great conversations; you REALLY connected. Then you finally met up in person, and it was like he was a different person.
That’s because he WAS.
Online, he was interacting as his avatar. You were meeting his online persona.
That on its own doesn’t make him a scammer. You have an online persona, too. We’re all different online. When we interact via text and memes, it’s not the same as interacting via body language and vocal tone.
What makes a scammer different is that they’ll try to convince you it’s true love, even though you’ve never met each other.
They’ll convince you that what you have together is special and amazing and unlike anything they’ve ever experienced with anyone else.
That’s going to feel good to hear. Scammers know psychology. They make you feel heard and appreciated and adored.
But if this guy was really in it for love, he’d want to meet you to be sure. After all, he doesn’t know if you’re the real thing, either! He’s going to want to meet you as fast as he can so that he can see if there’s chemistry and snap you up before you meet someone else.
Scammers often have a good excuse. They’re working overseas, they’re in the military and posted overseas, they’re a doctor who’s volunteering in some third world country. They’re lonely, and you’re their link back home.
That’s all well and good. So it can be a friendship. But it’s not love and it’s not a relationship until both of you can be together in the physical world.
Report Him if He Asks for Money
The final thing you need to look for—and this is the big red flag—is that he brings up money.
The instant money is mentioned, you know the truth. He’s a scammer. Block him. Report him to the dating site. And please do this ONE thing…
As long as we stay quiet about what happened to us, because we’re too embarrassed to admit we fell for it, these romance scammers are going to keep scamming other people.
It’s up to us to stop them.
If you have been approached by a scammer, document everything, then go to ftc.gov/complaint. Click “Ripoffs and Imposter Scams,” then select “Romance Scams.”
Report him to the federal government.
I hope you never come across a romance scammer, but they’re out there. Be aware. Protect yourself. And share this article with your friends.
I wish I could have shared these tips with my friend. He didn’t want to hear a bad word said against his online girlfriend. He had to learn it the hard way for himself.
Take care of yourself. And stay strong.