ONLINE
DATING SCAMS

While most of the people involved in online dating are as honest as you are, there are also some people who use online dating as an opportunity for fraud. Going into the online dating experience with open eyes can help you avoid the scams and keep your dating experience enjoyable. While scam attempts abound, most are easy to avoid once you know what to look for. Familiarize yourself with these online dating scams to ensure that you do not wind up ensnared.

PHISHING CAMPAIGNS

You get an email that appears to be from a dating site you use. It may claim that you have a new message. It may offer a discount on a popular premium option. You click through and the website you arrive on appears to be the one that you use. You're prompted to log in. And then, nothing happens.

Phishing scams are older than the internet. They are attempts to use fake credentials to trick you into giving away information like your dating site login or your credit card numbers.

But why would someone want my dating site logins, you may think to yourself. In some cases, they may attempt to use your profile to pull some of the scams listed below. But, more often, they are not interested in your dating profile at all.

Many Americans use a single username and password for all of their online activity. Once they have someone's credentials to get onto their dating profile, they can look at the email addresses the victim has on record. From there, they can attempt to get into the victim's email inbox. Many people's inboxes contain links to their credit card and banking accounts. Jackpot! With one simple hack, they get access to a wealth of sensitive data that can be used in a number of nefarious ways.

Protecting yourself from this scam requires careful attention. When you receive an email from a dating site, try visiting the site itself in a new browser tab instead of clicking the link in the email. If the link is to an offer that you can't access from inside your account, study the URL carefully. Is it exactly the same as the one for the site? In some cases, people will buy fake URLs that are close enough to fool unwary people. In others, they do not bother at all and will just use a domain they already have or even just a string of DNS numbers.

The other thing you can do to keep yourself safe is something you should be doing anyway: use a separate password for every place you go on the web. Your passwords should also be changed regularly; experts recommend that they be changed at least every six months. If any of your accounts become compromised, assume that all of them have. Change every password to protect yourself from intrusions.

If you accidentally enter credit card information into a phishing site, there is no time to waste. Call your credit card issuer immediately to have any charges reversed. This call will also involve reporting the number stolen; your bank will issue a new numbers so that you are protected from any further misuse.

FAKE PROFILES

Many people had a lot of reasons to be worried or upset when the affair site Ashley Madison was hacked. While many who were attempting to arrange for infidelity had their misdeeds exposed, they also learned that many of them had been played, as well. A large portion of the female profiles on the website were internally generated to make the site look busier and keep men coming back and paying the subscription fee.

On some dating sites, the "fake" profiles are not out and out fraud. A now-defunct dating site habitually hired women to work from home as "dating site ambassadors." These individuals were paid to post photos and answer a set number of messages each day. While the contractors had instructions to reveal that they were paid ambassadors, it is likely that many men on the dating sites did not fully read profiles and learn that they were talking to someone who had no interest in dating.

Fake profiles can sometimes be difficult to detect. If they are run by US employees, they will not have the telltale poor grammar seen in other common scams. Fake profiles only harm you in that they keep you coming back to and paying for a site that is probably not as active as it seems. To avoid falling prey to these scams, work to make arrangements to meet up quickly. Moving on when a meet up can't be arranged doesn't just help you avoid scams; it can also cut down the time spent talking to real people who are probably not going to ever make a commitment to meet.

CATFISHING

This can sometimes be the most heartbreaking online dating scam of all. For reasons of their own, some individuals engage in dating scams where they pretend to be someone else. These are not always an attempt to exhort money. In many cases, it is simply the actions of someone who is hoping for attention.

Most people had never heard of catfishing before Notre Dame football player Manti Te'o's story was shared. He had met someone online and engaged in a long distance relationship. They exchanged phone calls and had long online conversations, but had never met in person.

Things began to unravel when a supposed friend of Te'o's girlfriend told the player that his girlfriend had died. Through a tragic coincidence, the scammer picked the same day that his grandmother died. In an interview after a game, Te'o talked about the challenge of playing through this sort of double tragedy.

Tuiasosopo had faked a female identity using a falsetto voice when on the phone. He'd become angry when he learned that Te'o was talking to other girls online and decided it was time to end the affair. He invented the fake death as a form of revenge.

Catfishing is more common that people might imagine. While this is a high-profile example, no one knows just how many people fall victim to catfishing scams each year.

A sudden or inexplicable death of an online correspondent is one that experts call a surfire sign of catfishing. This is often the way that someone who's engaged in the practice will extricate themselves from the relationship. Should a relationship get this far, see if you can find corroboration of the event.

To protect yourself from a catfishing scam, it's a good idea to get a long distance lover on Skype or another video platform. This is not a sexting opportunity; just a chance to confirm that the person who you are talking to is who they seem. You can also try asking them to come visit or if you can go and visit them. If they refuse either request, there is a chance that you are not talking to who you think you are.

WEBCAM BLACKMAILING

This is a dating scam that has become so common that it has its own megathread in reddit's popular /r/legaladvice forum. Sometimes it originates on a dating site, other times it starts on a conversation site like ChatRoulette. The scam goes like this: a man begins chatting with a woman. She suggests exchanging sexually explicit photos or video. The two of them send pictures back and forth, then say goodbye for the night. He falls asleep feeling like he's just had an exciting encounter with someone and that he'd love to get to know her better.

The next morning, he get's a rude awakening with some hostile text messages. The sender will claim to be the woman's father. Further, he will say that this is not a woman at all, but an underage girl, sometimes as young as 14. He's very angry and feels that you have abused his daughter. But, he's willing to forget all about it if you send him $200.

The truth in this scam is that there is no daughter or father at all. Both sets of messages come from the same person. Often, a reverse image search will reveal that the photos or video were copied from an adult site and that the woman in the pictures is a professional camgirl or model.

Should you be drawn into one of these scams, it's important to keep your head. Do nothing unless you are contacted by a lawyer or law enforcement. If you do not hear anything, chances are good that nothing more will happen.

In some variants of this scam, the scammer will attempt to gain access to identifying information. For instance, they will ask to get on video on Skype in the hope that this account will be linked to your Facebook account. They will then threaten to send any naked pictures or video of you to people on your friends list.

We're big proponents of consenting adults engaging in whatever activities they want to together. However, before engaging in virtual sex acts, ensure that you have not shared any identifying information that can be used later to blackmail.

AFFILIATE CAMSITE MARKETERS

It happens to every man on a dating site eventually. He'll get a message from an impossibly beautiful woman. In many cases, her profile pictures will involve skimpy dresses or even lingerie.

The come on is usually pretty quick and happens within a few messages. She loves your photos. She wants to have cam sex with you. You just need to meet her on another site and you can get on video together.

When people engage in this scam, what they are looking for is a commission for a new sign up on a camsex site. These are websites where women will perform strip teases and sexual acts in a pay per minutes setting.

Often, these sites will pay a fee for a raw sign up. They do not care whether you are actually interested in pulling out your wallet to pay to watch women on webcams. They just want you to sign up.

In many cases, these come-ons are automated. Instead of talking to a woman, you are talking to a bot. It will respond with vaguely relevant comments to your questions or conversational attempts. Once you've seen a few, these are easy to recognize and to avoid.

CONFIDENCE SCHEMES

In some cases, those who profess that they are on a dating site looking for love are really looking for money instead. These individuals will run several scam profiles at once to lure in unsuspecting and trusting individuals. The fraud-busting company Scamalytics reports that they discover up to 250,000 new scam profiles every month.

The typical scam goes like this: you and the scammer begin exchanging emails and text messages. You will make a plan to meet. Then, suddenly, they report a problem: they cannot meet you yet because some sort of disaster has occurred. In some cases, it's a sick mother who needs an expensive surgery right away. International dating scams will often involve a request for a wire transfer to pay fees for them to leave their country to come visit you in yours. As soon as they get enough cash, they will fall silent and delete the profile.

Both men and women can fall prey to this scam. A serious scam in 2013 involved individuals targeting military widows. The scammer pretended to be another veteran. Once the woman was engaged in regular conversations, the requests for money would being. Just as often, either men or women running scams will use stolen photos of beautiful models to catch the attention of lonely and trusting men.

There are a few key giveaways that can help you detect this sort of scam. If the pictures on the profile look like professionally taken modeling photos, this can be a sign that they are stolen. Do a reverse image search on Google. You will typically find that these photos are being used in a number of places.

Sometimes there will be geographical mismatches. They will say that they are in Sacramento, but their IP address will point to a place that is hundreds or thousands of miles away. If they are on a site that gives a user's general location, they will typically turn this feature off.

If you are someone who is picky about grammar on dating profiles and messages, you are already somewhat protected from dating scammers. English is often not a dating scammer's first language. As a result, their profiles and messages will be filled with awkward sentence construction, misspellings and bad grammar.

In some cases, a group of people will work together on an internet dating scam. This will sometimes become apparent because the emails will change radically in tone from one day to the next. Spelling and grammar will vary. You'll get the feeling that you are not talking to the same person. This, sadly, may be because you are not. You are just shuffled off to the next person to take a shift stringing along dating hopefuls.

The best rule of thumb is not to give money to someone who you have never met in person. It is especially important not to use services like Western Union; once you've sent cash this way, it is gone. No matter how strong the connection you think you feel, chances are they are a scammer attempting to separate you from your hard-earned cash.

SUMMING UP

Internet dating is a highly effective and rewarding way to meet someone new. A larger portion of the population is attempting online dating every day and getting the chance to find the person who is right for them.

When you delve into dating online, it is important to be realistic. If you do not get chatted up by model beautiful women in real life, chances are good that they are not hunting you down online, either. You may be a sweet and sensitive person, but this doesn't mean that you should fall for every attempt to get your help and your money.

We are not saying that you should not be trusting and open when you are dating. In fact, being too suspicious can harm your chances of finding a connection. Instead, think rationally about any behavior or situations that seem too good &emdash; or too bad &emdash; to be true. By thinking critically, even when you are emotionally vulnerable, you can better assure that you can swim past the scammers and connect with the person you are dreaming about.