If a very attractive man (or woman) writes you out of the blue, check the details. Good scammers know how to keep you engaged. Here’s what you should know.
Romance feeds on loneliness. You’re single — and wish you weren’t.
The temptation may be to chat — a lot — through the dating site, WhatsApp, or another service, even if it’s just to pass the time.
It might be fun, but if you’re getting attached or in serious lust, protect yourself. If you’re intrigued with someone you’ve only seen in a dating profile, do a video call soonest. Not a phone call — a video call. You might be nervous, or he might be. But it’s the only way to be sure you’re communicating with the man or woman in the photos you see.
Good scammers know how to keep you engaged and eventually ask for money.
Before you even get to that point, you can weed out most scammers at their first approach. Let’s say a very attractive person writes you first, throwing out “Hello, beautiful,” and says nothing specific about your profile. Lots of people who aren’t scammers do that, but if your new admirer is also stunning, try not to succumb.
When you’re browsing, or after you’ve mutually swiped “Yes,” look for giveaways. Here are the most common ones, which apply to both men and women, straight or gay.
How to spot a fake dating profile
The photos will most likely be square, screenshots from Instagram, which turns every photo square. There will be only a few photos. Or there may be no photo of his face.
If the site includes a location, the location will change. This is because scammers are looking for new people all the time. The site Happn uses GPS to show you who was in your area recently, but a scammer can fool the system with his smartphone.
Fake profiles often don’t link to Facebook or Instagram. If you do see social media accounts, they’ll look new, without much activity and with few friends or followers.
Other red flags:
- He’s a doctor for the United Nations or Médecins Sans Frontières, the international nonprofit called Doctors Without Borders in English.
- He’s a widow or has children who need a mother because their mother is gone.
These lies appeal to people with big hearts who are more likely to want to help when the scammer asks for money.
When in doubt, try a reverse image search at images.google.com. See instructions here. You might see your new friend’s images attached to a different name or story. If you start communicating, ask.
How to spot someone who is lying
- You text on the site, and he immediately asks you to switch to WhatsApp or text and then tells you he’s quitting your dating app. He wants you to think he’s busy or focusing only on you — but really he knows you might guess he’s a scammer and is preventing you from reporting him to the dating service.
- He tells you that he’s traveling, but only for a couple of weeks or a month. Although he lives in Jersey City, N.J., he’s in Turkey to perform surgery or Yemen for the United Nations or Doctors Without Borders. Or he’s an investor who evaluates opportunities abroad. Your next move: Say “You sound wonderful; why don’t you get in touch when you’re home?” If he keeps writing more than occasionally, be concerned. Maybe he’s really smitten. More likely, he’s a scammer. A doctor in a war zone doesn’t have time to chat.
- You look at his social media accounts, and he tells you that they’re new because his old ones were hacked, he lost his phone and forgot to back it up, or he lost his passwords and couldn’t retrieve them. Creating a complete background is work for scammers, although sometimes they take a stab at it.
- He’s a professional who doesn’t have a Linked In profile.
If you suspect someone might be a scammer but you want to continue to talk with him or her, you might ask. He might deny it, pretend to be crushed, insult you, cancel your match, or call you. Whatever he says, don’t believe him unless he agrees to a video call on a secure service. Let him prove himself to you.
How to avoid all this trouble
Use a site that has video services built in, like Badoo and MeetMe. Or ask for a video call as soon as you’re interested. FaceTime, WhatsApp, Skype, and IPhone are good choices. However, if your new friend asks you to use a video service you’ve never heard of, beware. Also be extra wary if the face on the other side is too fuzzy to see. Scammers can fake video calls.
Someone who keeps putting off the video call may be shy — or lying to you in hopes that eventually he’ll fool you into sending him money. It’s fun to flirt, but the hurt will hurt.
Another approach, if you don’t want the video call, is a long phone call in which you ask them tough questions related to their story about themselves. Pick a topic where you’re a bit of an expert. If you’ve had kids, you can probably tell if your man really has a 13-year-old in boarding school. Exercise self-discipline, and don’t ignore the danger signs. People who get scammed aren’t dumb. They’re victims of their own wishful thinking. That also goes for all the bad relationships people get into.
April 13, 2022
Janet O’Dell, RN