Valentines Day brings out the best (and worst) in people. As couples scramble to book their dinner reservations and grab the last bouquet of flowers, singles are swiping and clicking to find last minute love. Yet in the search for love, many online daters are finding scams and fraud instead.
According to statista.com, 30% of U.S. internet users are currently using dating sites or apps. As online dating becomes more commonplace, hackers have found nefarious ways to cash in. According to the FBI, romance scams cost consumers the most and are the most embarrassing to report. In 2016 alone, over $230 million was lost, and a Consumer Reports survey indicated that more than 12% of online daters have been personally conned.
This Valentine’s Day, we’re helping you distinguish true love from those awful catfish. Let’s take a look at the signs your sweet valentine is just in it for the money.
You may have heard the term “Catfish” as made popular by Nev Schulman’s popular show of the same name (watch a clip below).
It’s just another word for a romance scam, where someone is lured into a “relationship” with a fictional online persona. They often use stolen pictures from other users’ accounts, elaborate background stories, and excuses not to meet in person.
If the scammers are playing the long game, they might use it for financial gain. Then there are the cases where catfishing is used for revenge, blackmail, cyberbullying, or almost any other thing you can think of, including a 2015 case where 3 women catfished $3,300 away from ISIS.
Here are 5 warning signs that you’re being catfished and how to avoid them.
- You can’t find them on social media
If you search for your online date on social media, what shows up? If you can’t find them at all or the social media profile has few friends, posts, or was recently created – keep your guard up. Just having a social media account doesn’t guarantee they’re real.
- They’re too into you
You’re awesome and everyone should love you, but remember, you haven’t met this person yet. Most catfishing victims say the relationships evolved extremely fast and the scammer came on very strong. We’re not saying there’s no such thing as love at first sight, but you need to actually see them first.
- Excuses, excuses
If you’ve requested a time to meet in person, more photos, or just a simple phone call and they keep making excuses, they might be catfish. Maybe their job sends them around the world or they conveniently dropped their phone and smashed the camera as soon as you ask for a photo. As soon as you appear you might be on to them, they’ll typically end communication and move on to the next victim.
- Too good to be true
If your online date looks like a flawless model, watch out. While the online dating world is filled with attractive people, if every picture is perfectly modeled and you’re starting to think they look like stock images – keep your guard up. We can almost guarantee you a Kardashian didn’t swipe right on you.
- They ask for money
Let’s get real. If online dates you haven’t met are looking for handouts, drop them. Whether they are real or catfish, you’re better off without them. Never give any money or bank account info to someone you’ve only met online.
Keep Your Guard Up
While Valentines Day may be all letting your walls down and someone into your life, don’t be in such a rush that you overlook obvious warning signs. Keep your wits about you and maintain a healthy dose of skepticism to make sure you don’t wind up being the next victim of catfishing. Remember to report all suspicious activity to the online dating website and the FBI at www.ic3.gov.
If you’re unsure of what to look for with catfishing and other online scams, services like Phishgoggles Security Awareness Service provide great resources on recognizing and responding to online scams.