They say you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince and while kissing a slimy amphibian might be most unpleasant, becoming the victim of a dating scam would probably be much worse. However, last month three of the main online dating sites developed a new tool to help site users from becoming the victim of such scams. Match.com, eHarmony.com and Spark Networks recently announced that they will begin screening for online predators. While many have focused on the fact that this will include screening for sexual predators, we would like to focus on another type of predator they will be working to root out; scam artists.
More and more these days, people are turning to the internet to find their significant others and anywhere there is opportunity for vulnerability, you can believe that a scam artist will be there to exploit that vulnerability. It is always heartbreaking when you hear of someone who has had their bank account drained or identity stolen. It is even more heartbreaking to tell someone that this has happened to them because the person they thought they had fallen in love with online doesn’t exist and has defrauded them.
What begins as online flirting turns to something more serious and when promised the undying love of another individual, victims will do things they otherwise would not. This includes wiring money to this new “love”, providing banking information or other personal information. Often the thief will say this money is for a sick family member or because they are stuck in a foreign country. Who wouldn’t want to help the person who has given them the hope of finding love again, when they are in such dire circumstances?
It is a slippery problem when dealing with this type of thief because the victim is the one who willingly wires the money or provides the information. They only realize that they have become a victim later down the road when their “love” disappears or their bank account is empty. The way to fight this type of online fraud and identity theft is to stop it from occurring in the first place. Dating sites had dealt with this issue in the past by posting a warning in the terms of service that people were supposed to read when they signed up for the site. Needless to say, many people do not read these terms closely, and so many who may have avoided becoming victims became just that.
The three online dating sites mentioned before have now taken the protection of their members to the next level and screen for identity thieves alongside other types of internet predators. They follow an outline of preventative techniques which will include a reporting system of the latest financial scams, screening of profiles for possible “clues” that a member is a scammer and the ability to send emails to members about scams that may apply to them. However, it is smart to keep an eye out for yourself and not depend solely on the sites’ screening process.
You can check the OnGuard Online Website for a list of ways to check if your sweetheart may be a scam artist. While it is good to know that both consumer protection groups and the dating sites themselves are trying to protect the public from cybercriminals, it is yet to see if the measures will have any effect on the prevalence of dating scams. The best way to avoid becoming a victim is to think critically about the relationship you are entering and look out for yourself. Here is to hoping you find your prince or princess, and avoid the frogs and more importantly…the scam artists