Think with your head, not your heart and be aware of the tricks up the rogue Romeo’s sleeves.
Be careful when people you meet online:
- have movie star looks
- profess affection quickly
- have just joined social media
- are inconsistent in their stories
- repeat themselves all the time
- make excuses not to speak on the phone
- ask a lot of questions
- ask for money
One in five relationships now starts online so it’s big business. Many sites are genuine but some attract fraudsters with only financial greed in mind.
The warning signs are often there, people just don’t want to see them. So how do you know that you are being scammed? Like most online scams, be on the lookout for something which seems too good to be true. Almost always, it is too good to be true. Go with your gut, if something doesn’t seem right, it’s probably not.
Scammers are becoming more technologically sophisticated. They use stolen webcam footage to give themselves another face and voice changer software to fake a local accent. One tell-tale sign is that they tend to blame a computer glitch when their audio and video are delayed and not in sync.
Fake profiles are a common scam, aiming to sneak malware onto your computer to steal passwords and other sensitive information. Or they might send you their photograph as a link. If you click the link to visit a website or down a file, your computer gets infected.
They might also email you and include an attachment. They could be trying to give your computer a virus, so don’t open attachments from people you don’t know – ever.
Scammers can slowly piece together enough information about you to steal your identity – perhaps with the goal of opening a credit card in your name.
Sometimes sweetheart scams are a long con designed to get you to hand over more and more money. Perhaps they claim they need the cash to flee their own country to join you, to pay off a pressing debt, or to get urgent medical care. A favourite ploy is money needed for a child’s health, which is hard to say no.
Blackmailers hope to convince you to send intimate images or undress in front of a webcam. Then they threaten to publish the visuals on your social media accounts if you don’t pay up.
Warning signs that scream “Danger!”:
- They come on too strong. Beware if they say “I love you” or “you’re my soulmate” after only a few hours or days of chatting online.
- Their social media profiles have only just been created. If you’re Googling your new found friend and they’ve only recently joined Facebook, be very suspicious.
- Their picture is too perfect. Many scam victims describe the person they thought they were dating online as having movie star looks. They’re almost certainly fake images.
- Often, they claim to be younger than you are, possibly a widow/widower and may be a single parent (especially if they think you want kids or a family life.
- They are inconsistent in their stories. Remember you may be talking to a team of scammers, not just one, so they may slip up from time to time.
- They repeat themselves all the time. They could be running out of things to say, or have a bad memory, or more likely, they may be targeting several people at once and have forgotten how far through the scam they are with you.
- They’re never willing to speak on the phone. Many scammers pretend to be from English speaking countries, so a phone conversation would easily blow their cover.
- They ask you a lot of questions – but don’t answer many of yours. They want specific information, such as your full name, and are not quick to give much away about themselves. They might not just be phishing for your home address and financial information, they might also be hoping to snare the answers to typical security questions such as your mother’s maiden name, favourite pet or first school.
- They ask you for money. If you decline and they lose interest straight away it’s very likely they were a scammer, so good riddance!
It might all sound like common sense, but scammers rely on the fact the people looking for love tend to think with their heart rather than their head.