When it comes to dating, you usually hear “There are plenty of fish in the sea” but rarely that the sea is full of catfish. Millions of Americans use online dating services to find that special someone, especially with Valentine’s Day coming up, but with the rising presence of catfishing and other online dating scams, not every encounter on these sites will be a fairy tale.
In 2014, the Better Business Bureau received over 4,000 complaints about dating sites, mostly pertaining to billing or service-related issues, but others were a little more unsettling. Both the BBB and the Federal Trade Commission warned consumers to beware of fraud on online dating websites. Scammers or “catfish” make fake profiles to bait their victims, eventually making them the victim of identity theft and a broken heart.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, these scams usually follow the same protocol: you are contacted by someone who appears to be interested in you, and you chat back and forth, forming what feels like a real connection, until that person asks you for your personal information, money or some other financially related assistance. That’s when the trouble really starts. Fortunately, there are a few ways to prevent this from happening to you, and all it really takes is some knowledge of what an online dating scam looks and feels like.
Asks for personal information too quickly
While exchanging some personal details is a natural part of getting to know someone, some information is too much. Carole Brody Fleet, an author and speaker on online dating, told US News & World Report, that people shouldn’t share anything they aren’t comfortable with, even if a prospective romantic partner is on the line.
Professes early feelings of love
Whether you’re a romantic or a cynic, having a stranger you met on the internet suddenly confess feelings of love should be a major red flag. According to the FBI, this is a classic catfishing move as a way to bond more quickly and feel more compelled to oblige their requests for money.
Can’t meet with you
While some online scams do involve in-person meet-ups, one of the biggest indicators of a scam is when after an appropriate amount of time, your online romance still can’t find the time to meet in person. Catfishers will typically find very creative excuses to not be able to see you in person. In one case detailed by US News & World Report, a man going by the name “Nathan Pfister” told a woman he was working on a cargo ship for a month-long voyage around Europe, giving a reason to both be absent from the immediate area and eventually ask for money.
Asks for money
If you get a request for money, it’s very likely that you’re being targeted for a scam. Even if you have an inclination to help, bear in mind that these scammers often concoct very intricate, believable stories to get you to send them money or allow them access to your bank account information. Even if the person isn’t scamming you, it’s always in your best interest to say no to these types of requests.
Knowing the signs to look for can greatly reduce the likelihood you'll be a victim of a scam, but with all the scams and breaches in the world, it seems inevitable that at some point we'll find ourselves the victims of ID theft . That's how an identity theft protection service, like Identity Guard, can help—by monitoring your credit , Social Security Number and public record you can be alerted to certain activity in your credit file that could indicate fraud.