The majority of people who are into online dating websites are honest, reasonable people who are looking for some kind of ‘relationship' – perhaps friendship, marriage, or just someone they'd like to get to know.
Unfortunately, there is a very small majority of dating site users whose main motivation is quite different. They are online to try and cheat other people – to ultimately extract money from them. They do this in a variety of ways. But ultimately, from your point of view, it comes down to spotting a liar before they can manipulate you.
And if you think only the weak and gullible are victims of dating site scammers, think again. There are many recorded cases of intelligent and professional people who get caught out.
The scammer’s main tactic is to post profiles and photos which are fake. The scammers are likely to be from parts of Africa, statistically, but their profile on dating sites will typically say they are from the United States or another affluent country. One scam involves putting up profiles of military personnel and then messaging other people on the dating site. When the find someone they believe they can scam, the target person is asked to cough up money. The fake military person might say the money will release them from military service so they can then be with the target. All sorts of official-looking documentation purporting to support this lie will be sent to the target person.
All of the above is te lead-in to my main point, which is you can avoid these scammers (and other liars and cheats) by being a bit more vigilant in your online dating activity. Below are a few things to consider when dealing with just about anyone online. The aim is to look for irregularities.
First of all, look for the way they write their profile information. Is the English good? Scammers typically do not speak or write English very well, so a badly-written and bland profile can be one indicator of less-than-honest person. For instance, I have seen profiles where the user says they are a qualified lawyer, from New York, yet their English is appalling! Beware of profiles that are too generalized (e.g. “I like hiking and camping and the outdoors”) and predictable. I would put more faith in a profile that speaks of unique and interesting things that could really only come from someone reasonably genuine. For instance, if they talk about a local basketball team, the names of their cats or dogs, or have articulate English, and express a range of ideas that are interesting, rather than bland.
Another giveaway for someone who might be a scammer is if the profile photos are too glamorous or beautiful, as if it is an image stolen from a fashion website. Most genuine people (with some exceptions) do not look this, and would not go to all the trouble of putting a high-fashion photo on a dating site. Genuine users would usually put up a casual photo, rather than a highly stylised one. Secondly, very glamorous men and women generally don't need to use a dating site! But there are exceptions. All I am saying is in these circumstances be careful. Photos of beautiful women on dating sites are sometimes a trap for the unwary!
Finally, scammers – once they had some contact from you – will invariably tell you a story about how someone they know is dying and money is required for treatment … or money is needed to get them out of the military. Or the government of Nigeria wants to transfer some money out of the country using your bank account. All of these are sure signs you are dealing with a scammer, or a team of them. Some scammers are very, very sophisticated in their operation, so you have to be as critical as you can.
As I mentioned at the begining, 90% of dating site users are usually genuine. I just hope that you are now aware that in that other 10%, some will be on dating sites for all the wrong reasons. With a bit of critical thinking outlined above, you should be able to reduce your risk considerably. Just remember that many dating sites will let you ‘report' a suspected scammer. If the dating site does not have this feature, I suggest you look for one that does. And don't forget that many sites also allow you to ‘block' a user who is annoying you. This is another measure you can use to protect yourself – not only from scammers, but from anyone who is being annoying or a pest.
Charles L. Jackson is a writer and consultant on dating, romance and the internet.