Internet dating has become ubiquitous in the last decade. You can meet people more easily than ever before, but with these online tools grows a host of risks. Catfish (individuals who create fake profiles in order to deceive people), disingenuous individuals just looking for a fling, and scammers are rife on the internet. So, how can you find true romance without extreme emotional and financial risk? Here’s a guide for the 21st-century dater.
Spot Them Early
You can spot scammers if you know what to look for. Often, scammers will draw you in with empathetic stories. As you become acquainted through chat or text, scammers often seem perfect for whoever their potential victim is. If you have a heartfelt personal story, they will likely have a similar one. Humans find empathy and like people who share some of their experiences, whether emotional or physical. If the person you are in contact with seems to share a lot of similar experiences with you, Google their name immediately. While a veteran scammer will have created fake profiles on social media, this is a step you can’t pass up. If you cannot find any sign of them online, you know it’s not worth your time. If you only see results after you confront them, chances are they are a new catfish or scammer. Block them immediately.
Know The Scams
Be aware of the most current scams. In 2018, the most common internet dating scam were accounts made by fake military personnel. Like most financial scammers, it would start off normal enough, except the scammer would say they were on deployment in another country. After trust was gained, they scammer would ask for money so they could return to the United States. While this is just the latest example, stay in the know of how catfish and scammers play with the heartstrings of their victims. You should never provide your financial information or wire money to anyone on a romantic social network.
In Real Life
While most scammers can only take advantage of you if you provide them with your personal information online, there are disingenuous people who may live closer. When you go on a date with someone from an online platform, protect yourself from a horribly awkward date as well as a more malicious predator.
First, set a timeline. Tell the individual where you can meet (a public place), and make plans to meet up with a friend afterword, so you have a reason to leave. You will avoid an awkward date and a pushy individual this way. Never leave your wallet or billfold alone with someone you met online, even if you just step away to grab a drink or go to the bathroom. Someone could steal your credit card, or pocket your cash. In case an in-person scammer does get a hold of your credit or debit card, protect yourself by using an identity theft protection service that will alert you of any suspicious activity on your accounts.
Protect yourself in a systematic way when you search for romance online. Spot scammers early with a Google search and common sense. Keep track of the most current and popular scams with internet scam watchdogs. If or when you meet with someone in real life, take extreme care and utilize an identity theft protection service to keep your most vulnerable personal data safe.
This is a post by Alex Clark-McGlenn, a graduate of the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts Writer’s Workshop. His fiction has been published in the Best New Writing 2016 anthology, The Cost of Paper, Smokebox.net, and others. In his spare time he enjoys cycling, soccer, and reading. He lives in the Pacific Northwest.