Last updated on | by Aet Suvari0
We Need To Talk About Fraud
This week we were stunned by the news that only in the last year online daters lost around £33 million to fraudsters and scammers. It beggars belief that even after 20 years of online dating, this is still such a poignant issue and that dating sites aren’t doing more to protect their clients. But as the UK’s national fraud centre Action Fraud reports, over 3500 people fell victim to dating scams in 2014-15. And these are only the crimes that got reported! I shudder to think how many people were conned and felt too ashamed or betrayed to report it.
So, what can you do to protect yourself online? How can you escape clever con artists on a dating site where you are in a potentially vulnerable position – at least emotionally? Opening your heart to the possibility of love certainly means letting your guard down, placing your trust in someone else – what if someone calculatedly abuses that trust?
We’re very happy to see that Action Fraud has started their own campaign to combat cyber fraud. As avid online dating promoters and watchdogs we too feel responsibility in these matters and would like to offer our help and advice to keep you from falling victim to fraud.
1) Take precautions
First of all, paid dating sites attract less fraudsters than those that are free to use. It is obvious why that is the case as conners are less likely to sign up and cough out membership fees in order to look for their victims when there are also free sites where to do that, so by paying you do make a small investment in your safety and security. However, don’t ever think that this alone will stop someone whose aim is to con you out of your well-earned money. There are enough fraudsters on paid dating sites as well.
Some online dating sites give an option to verify their members’ identities – some through Facebook profiles, some ask for phone numbers, some for video messages and very few actually need some kind of proof of identity. While such vetting by no means guarantees your safety, it is a small step towards it and if possible, you should always search for members who have made the effort to verify their identity. Fraudsters are a lot less likely to leave a trace like that – even if it is only a phone number or possibly fake Facebook account.
2) Be cautious
A lot of people strike up random conversations on online dating websites. Not every member will approach you with the same strategy. Surely, if someone starts asking you for money in their very first few emails, you’d have to be exceptionally gullible to fall for their shenanigans. However, that is not their usual tactics. Fraudsters are much more clever – and alas, evil – than that, preying upon your vulnerabilities. In order to do that they first have to find your weak spots.
They’re likely to ask you a lot of personal questions about yourself, making you open up to them – and yet, they’re willing to tell you very little about themselves. We stand for online dating and we are not likely to start telling you to always keep your guard and never trust anyone – but we are telling you to be careful and cautious while doing that. Trust doesn’t need to be extended indefinitely, at least not on an online dating website.
3) Trust your instincts. If not – trust your friends’ instincts.
You should know when things are wrong. It’s a very sad thing to say but they’re usually wrong when someone seems too good to be true. When people who haven’t even met you yet start talking about true love, even marriage, you have to question their motives. Does true love ever blossom from such conversations? Sure, it happens but unfortunately if we look at the numbers and statistics, fraud happens more often. If you feel like you can’t trust your heart, trust your gut feeling.
However, fraudsters are successful for a reason – they are good at what they do. They are also capable of fooling your instincts into believing every word that they say. They’ve gained your trust and love, it’s only natural. It then helps to talk about it with your friends and family. They’re always bound to want what’s best for you. If it doesn’t seem hundred per cent right to them, it pays to exercise some caution.
4) Just keep money out of it
If all else fails, make yourself one promise: keep money out of it. You feel like you’ve found the love of your life online. Everything seems perfect about your new match, even though you haven’t met yet – but (s)he lives or works far away. You’ve had long conversations over the phone, butterflies in the stomach… it really seems like a real thing. And then something happens to them and they need a substantial sum of money quite quickly. Here is where you should always draw the line, no matter how big the butterflies flapping around in your tummy.
If it’s the real thing they’ll understand that you can’t help them and they will turn to someone else – family members, relatives, old friends. That’s what you’d do in an emergency, right? You wouldn’t expect your newly found love to come up with a huge sum of money. It just doesn’t seem right. That’s how it works in real life. So even if you’re the type that is likely to fall head over heels, always draw a line that you wouldn’t cross.
Online dating is sometimes hard and unfair but we shouldn’t let few rotten apples ruin the whole experience for everyone. If you feel like you or someone you know might have fallen victim to a fraudster, don’t hesitate to look for help and advice. After all, the only way to stop them is to catch them and put an end to their actions.
For more information or if you’ve experienced online dating fraud yourself visit the Action Fraud website.