Online dating is a safe and fun way to find a great new relationship, but everything in life has its risks, so today’s blog post will go over some important safety tips that will keep you from getting led on, catfished, or otherwise taken advantage of. We are going to start out by going over a few types of online dating scams and then we are going to go over ten rules that you can use to protect yourself. Don’t let a small number of jerks and shady characters keep you from the chance of finding love online.

The 3 Most Common Online Dating Scams
1. The Criminal Catfish
In criminal catfishing, people take on fictional personas to lure you into an emotional relationship. Once they feel that you are “on the hook,” they will suddenly find themselves to be in crisis. Maybe they want to come see you, but they don’t have money for travel. Another common story is that they or relative/pet is sick and they don’t have enough money for medical care. Yet another is that they lost their job and don’t have enough for rent, or to keep their internet connection going. If you encounter anything like this, you are dealing with a criminal catfisher. Run Away!

2. The Emotional Vampire
Unlike the criminal catfishers, these scammers don’t actually mean you any harm, but the toll from dealing with one of them can be just as rough as getting scammed out of money. These people start off just like their criminal counterparts, by luring you into an online relationship with a strong emotional connection. They will never meet you and they will probably never communicate with you by any means other than email or text. They are just going to use you for their own emotional validation for as long as you allow it. The perpetrators are lonely people who have decided their best chance at happiness to make people fall for them in a virtual setting. They often use fake photos and have completely made up life stories designed to make you fall for them.

3. Mr. Roboto
Information has value, and there are some people who use dating sites to try and harvest as much of it as they can from you and then sell it to as many people as possible. They do this with fake profiles and overexcited messages that will immediately ask you for your email address so you can get to know each other better off the site. They may even send you to another site to show you the photos “this dating site wouldn’t let them post”. This is just a computer program designed to get your contact information, and sometimes your credit card information. The great news is that they are easy to spot, which makes them easy to avoid.

*Note: I’m not including people who are dishonest on their profiles and photos as scammers. We’ll be covering them and how to deal with them in an upcoming blog post.

Now that we’ve covered the most common types of online dating scams, let’s talk about how to protect yourself from them.

Online Dating Safety Tips

1. NEVER send anyone money!
This sounds like a pretty basic tip, but criminal catfishers are master manipulators. They won’t ask you for money until they know that you’ve started to fall for them. Once you are vulnerable and attached, it can be hard to imagine that the man or woman for whom you’ve developed feelings is making up the crisis they say has befallen them. I promise you. The crisis is fake. The chances that they are a real person, in real need are about as high as that Nigerian Prince that emailed you about transferring $26 million to your bank account.

2. Set a time limit
Online dating is a stupid name for trying to meet someone online. Instead, think of it as “online meeting”. The whole purpose of using a dating site is to find someone you can meet in person. Everything up to the first date exists in a fantasy realm. The longer you live in the fantasy, the easier it is to get sucked into someone’s lies. You shouldn’t meet up before you feel comfortable, but it’s best to do it sooner than later. This is important even if we aren’t talking about scams. Why spend months getting attached to someone who isn’t a good match, it prevents you from finding someone amazing!

3. Check their photos and profile on Google and Tineye
If you want an easy way to see if someone is a scammer, you can do your own check on their profile text and photos. Just copy and paste a chunk of their profile into Google and see if that same block of text pops up anywhere else. With photos, you can either check someone’s pics against Google Image Search, or Tineye.com to see where else those images appear online.

4. Avoid putting too much self-identifying information in your profile
I am shocked to see people including personal data in their online dating profile. I’m not talking about your hobbies and interests, but detailed information that an identity thief or scammer could use to take advantage of you. It’s fine to mention your kids, but don’t mention their names. You can talk about your career, but you should avoid mentioning where you work. Look at your photos to make sure that things like house numbers and license plates aren’t visible.

5. Look at their complete profile
Don’t make the mistake of just looking at someone’s photos. Look at the complete profile and check out everything that is filled out (or not filled out). A lot of scammers fill out the bare minimum and leave all of their preferences completely open. Also, read the profile to see if it sounds like it was written by someone who doesn’t speak English. A large number of dating scams are driven out of Eastern Europe, Africa, and Southeast Asia.

6. Don’t talk to people further away than you are willing to drive
For scammers, people looking for long-distance relationships are a dream come true. They know that you won’t be able to meet up anytime soon, so they have longer to work their tricks on you. You should focus your online dating search to people who live within driving distance. After all, the goal is to have a relationship with someone, right? It’s really hard to make that happen if you can’t conveniently see each other.

7. Be wary of over-complimentary messages
This one is directed more at the guys. Beware of messages from women that are too complimentary. I’m talking about the ones that tell you how smart, funny, and attractive you are, and how they’ve always wanted to meet a strong man like you. Yeah… Real women don’t send messages like that. So, why doesn’t this warning also apply to women? Sadly, so many men think this is a good way to email a woman, that if women avoided every incoming email that was filled with compliments, they’d eliminate 90% of what they receive. Stay tuned, because we’ll be talking about writing a great first email in an upcoming blog post.

8. Watch out for excuses to get out of dates
If the person you are talking with keeps coming up with excuses as to why they can’t meet (they always have to work, they are out of town on business, they are deployed in the military), you should consider this as a big red flag. You are here to meet someone. If they show interest but aren’t willing to meet, it generally means that they are a scammer, or they are just using your affection for their own emotional validation.

9. Report offenders to the dating site
Online dating is a community and it is up to all of us to make it a safe place to find love. If you find a profile that seems “off”, or you can tell they are a scammer from the way they are communicating with you, report them to the dating site. Good dating sites take scammers very seriously. By reporting them, you protect others from becoming victims. That means that when other people report scammers, they are helping protect you.

10. Trust your gut
Sometimes, people seem great on the surface, but you just can’t shake the feeling that something isn’t quite right. Take a step back and try to look at it from an objective point of view. If you were giving advice about a relationship to a friend in the same situation, what would you tell them to do?

If you follow these tips and trust your intuition, you will be in for a safer and more enjoyable online dating experience. If you need an expert to help make sure that you are doing everything you can to find the love of your life, give me a call (Eric) at 1-888-447-7634, or check out our services to see how we can help you take control of your online dating life.