Dear Anon-O-Box: How Do I Avoid Online Dating Scams?

Dear Anon-O-Box,

How do you tell when you’re getting scammed? How do you reduce the amount of scams coming at you?

I’ve gotten a multitude of responses where girls want to move it immediately to AIM without answering any of my questions. I’ve recently been asked to “Verify my identity” to get their phone number, resulting in me getting signed up and charged for porn sites.

What do I do about all these scams?

Yours,

Scam Slammed

e answers:

Dear Slammed,

Sadly, scams are a part of online life.  They’re on every corner of the internet, but there’s a place where they hurt the most: online dating. Here we are, putting our hearts on the line and there are people who would take advantage of that for their own financial benefit. It’s enough to make your blood boil.

Fortunately, I’ve been around the block and can tell you the signs you’re looking at a fake or scammer profile, signs you’ve gotten an email from a scammer, and things you should never reveal to someone you’ve never met.

Signs You’re Looking At A Fake or Scam Profile

  1. The profile is barely filled out. Since they usually get pulled down pretty quickly by the dating site, scammers don’t take the time to fill everything out.
  2. It’s really vague. She’s looking for a guy aged 18-45, any race, any religion, smoker or non, y’know, whatever. As long as you have money “she” can leech, she’s interested.
  3. She seems too perfect – for everyone. She loves going out, but staying in. She loves getting dressed up, or wearing PJs. She loves learning about whatever it is YOU like. She’s looking for a guy who can keep up with her sexual appetite. If the profile reads like she’s trying to fit into everyone’s life, she’s probably not real.
  4. Sexy pictures. If the pictures are really seductive, there’s a good chance it’s a fake. However, there are real girls out there who post these pics (and then complain when they get the “wrong” kind of attention).

Signs You’ve Gotten An Email From A Scammer

  1. Cut and paste. The email is a form letter that could have been sent to anyone. There are real people who do this, but scammers do it nearly 100% of the time.
  2. Links to outside site. “Check out more of my pictures here!”  These are often spam accounts that bring you to an adult dating site or porn site. Sometimes they’re malware. Don’t click.
  3. Declare immediate love. If she’s moving unreasonably fast (like you described in your email), that’s a pretty big red flag.
  4. Demand unreasonable hoop-jumping. You shouldn’t have to verify your identity to get a date.

Things You Should Never Reveal To A New Acquaintance

Even if a person’s profile and emails check out, you should still hold your personal information secret. There’s no need for someone you’ve never met to know your address, the name of your employer, or any of your other vitals.  If you meet someone who is uppity about wanting a background check, suggest they join an online dating site that performs background checks or a local matchmaking service. You’re asking them out for coffee; it shouldn’t require anything beyond a Googling to see that you’re not an axe murderer.

Choose Your Site Wisely

Go for the bigger, more established websites.  These are the sites that have the personnel on staff to scan for scammers and eliminate them before they cause harm. Avoid white label dating sites and any site that looks less than completely professional.

One site that impresses me with the transparency they have when dealing with scammers is SoulGeek. Whenever the SoulGeek admins find a scammer, they email all members with a warning listing the scammers screenname and a warning to cease all communication with them if you had been communicating with them off-site. They don’t get many scammers, but when they do, they’re sure to let everyone know so all members are safe.  Kudos to SoulGeek!

Trust Your Gut

If it feels wrong, it probably is. If she’s asking you for your SSN or credit card number before a first date, you can be sure she’s not assessing your marriage potential.

Be safe, geek friends.

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