More and more love stories start with someone “swiping right,” thanks to dating apps that make it possible to meet people whose paths you wouldn’t have crossed otherwise.
But these dating apps also have a dark underbelly: They allow so-called “romantic scammers” to prey on victims without ever having to speak to them face-to-face or even over the phone.
In 2020, there was a 20 percent increase in bank transfer fraud related to romance scams compared to 2019, a recent survey found. Meanwhile, a whopping £68 million was lost to digital dating scams in 2020.
As the winter nights approach and “cuffing” season begins, many singletons are intensifying their search for someone to mate with for Christmas.
But when you’re looking for the perfect match online, how can you be sure they’re there for you, not your money?
Speaking to FEMAIL, UK-based online security expert Chris Parker, founder of WhatIsMyIPAddress.com, shared seven red flags to watch out for if you’re looking for love online…
UK-based online security expert Chris Parker, founder of WhatIsMyIPAddress.com, shared seven red flags to watch out for when looking for love online. stock image
1. They often travel for work, have been posted abroad or live abroad
Chris explained that online romance scammers often don’t live near you, or even in the same country. This makes any real-life encounter much more difficult, and removes any way of verifying that they are who they claim to be.
“Many scammers pose as jet-set companies or soldiers stationed abroad,” he warned. Not only does this add to their glamor and excitement, it also gives them a solid excuse not to meet in person.
The expert goes on to say that while this is not a clear indication of a dating scam, combined with other red flags it may be time to distance yourself from your digital date.
2. They declare their love early and shower you with compliments
According to Chris, online scammers don’t waste time. If they think you are likely to fall for their trick, they will declare their love for you after a short time.
“This approach is meant to flatter,” says the expert. “Having someone confess that they love you is a compliment, and it’s easy to fall in love, too.”
He added that inciting such rapid development in your relationship also puts you at a disadvantage, keeping you from thinking too much about your date’s true motives by dragging you into their “flowing words of praise.” .
He continued, “If your online date gets too strong, pause to think about their intentions — they may just be eager, but they could very well be a scammer.”
3. They ask for money – even a small amount – for a tragic reason
While it may be normal to go out for a drink or dinner on a date, there’s no reason for your digital date to ask for money, Chris warned.
“If you’re asked for money, be on your guard,” he said. “Scammers often use the foot-in-the-door technique on victims, initially asking for a small sum of money, only to gradually increase it to a larger sum over time.”
He goes on to emphasize how such requests for money are often embedded in tragic circumstances – their relative is sick and they need money to visit them, for example, or they have been broken into and cannot afford food that week.
“These are designed to elicit sympathy and strengthen the emotional bond you’ve built over time, making it hard to refuse,” he added.
Chris explained that online romance scammers often don’t live near you, or even in the same country. Pictured, stock image
4. They look impossibly attractive
According to Chris, almost every online dating scammer uses a photo or photos with an impossibly beautiful man or woman.
“This tactic takes advantage of one’s self-esteem and flatters potential victims to fall for their trick,” the expert explained.
“Giveaway signs are people with flawless skin or hair, free of blemishes such as moles, acne, or moles, or perfectly exposed and posed photos.”
Chris added that such photos are often taken from elsewhere on the web, so it’s worth doing a quick reverse image search on Google to find out if your date’s photos are original and genuine.
5. They don’t have a digital footprint
The expert advises a quick Google search for your date and says there’s a chance they’re not who they say they are if they’re missing such a digital footprint.
‘In this day and age, almost everyone has a digital footprint,’ he emphasized.
“It’s nearly impossible to use the Internet and leave no trace on the Web, in the form of social media profiles, forum comments, work profiles, and so on.”
He continued: ‘That’s not to say that the lack of these traces is in itself a sign of a scam – some people are just cautious about the information they share online.
“But it’s definitely a warning to consider if you’re considering whether your date is a scammer.”
6. You have TOO much in common
Chris asked, ‘Does your online date have the same hobbies as you? Do they also like the same books and movies as you? Do they use the same pop culture references as you?’
He goes on to say how sophisticated online dating scammers often do extensive research on their targets, creating a fake character to match your personality and making it easier to fool you.
“Of course, this in itself shouldn’t be an immediate red flag – there are some great people out there after all,” he noted. “But use your intuition: if someone seems too good to be true, maybe they are.”
7. They refuse video calls
“We live in the age of Zoom, Google Hangouts and FaceTime,” the expert continued. “Even before the pandemic, video calls were the norm for people who wanted to catch up with friends and family.”
It should be a real red flag if your online date is reluctant to have a video call with you.
“They will probably come up with all sorts of excuses not to get in front of the camera and show their true likeness,” he explained. “Obviously, if your online date refuses to verify who they are with a simple video call, they’re probably a scammer.”