How to Identify Online Dating Scams

Updated: May 21, 2019

You've heard the stories.

You know there are people on online dating sites who are only there to get your money, with no intention of meeting you, dating you, or loving you. I've talked with a few, and played the game, to find out what tricks they had up their sleeves.

What are the Red Flags?

Most of the time they have a sob story that their wife died in some horrible accident, or from cancer, leaving him a widower and single dad. It's always a story that will pull at your heart strings.

One guy told me his wife and son died in a horrible car accident on her way to church. He was a soldier in the US army, stationed in Syria, and his daughter was at boarding school in Canada.

What made me suspicious?

He was not in my area. He was in Syria, a war zone, and a US soldier. I realize that the US did send soldiers to train the rebels, however, at the time of this conversation, it was not public knowledge.

He would Skype with me, but the sound never worked and we were still IMing, though we could 'see' each other. He had lots of time to talk to me, too much time, he could spend all day on the computer chatting with me.

The photo he sent me of his daughter was an obvious stock photo and not a pic of his teenaged daughter, whom he hadn't seen in 2 years. According to him, she lived at a Canadian Boarding School all year round.

I Googled to check and boarding schools in Canada cost over $50 K a year. I'm not positive, but I found it hard to believe that a US soldier made enough to pay for a private boarding school.

What I did to verify my suspicions:

I read a bunch about Syria, the climate, the people, the towns, the news, etc. Then asked him general vague questions, like what did you do today? Or what's it like in Syria now? Or How's the weather?

He'd take a long time to answer compared to other parts of our conversation. Then he'd send me a link to a news story, a weather update. He Googled the answer instead of telling me about his own experiences.

At one point, I asked him what time it was and he gave me the wrong time. I'd checked to see what the time difference was, so when he told me 10:00, I knew that he couldn't be in Syria. He was in Russia.

The nail on his coffin was when he told me that his 'son' needed a mother. Remember, he had a teenage daughter and his son had died in a car accident.

How to Identify a Scammer:

Scammers have gotten more sophisticated over time. They now have fake Facebook profiles with few friends, none of whom are connected to each other, and were just opened. They have phone numbers registered to actual places in the US. They have addresses of a place near you. They have businesses with simple websites. They will call you and talk to you on the phone.

So, how can you know if that great guy, who wants to get to know you online, is real or a scammer? I don't have a foolproof formula, all I can do is offer some points to help you.

  • Keep a written record of the details he gives you, ie, age, location, kids, job.

  • Keep all messages to look back and compare to new information he is giving you

  • Ask vague open ended questions to encourage him to give you details

  • Ask yourself, does his voice, accent, etc, match the photo

  • Research the information he gives you. Google has lots of information

  • Keep a written record of the times he contacts you & what time it would be there

  • Ask yourself, does the information provided make sense?Do not give him too many details about your life, keep talking about him

  • Go with your gut. Don't take anything he says at face value, always question.

For example, you've kept a record of the times he contacts you and the times he claims he needs to be working. Considering the time difference, do they make sense?

Keep asking yourself questions, without asking him to explain why the information he is giving you isn't making sense. Keep a record of everything and compare it. If you see a pattern of lies and things that don't make sense, save yourself time and block him.

I have talked with a few online dating scammers to get a good idea of how they sound, what they promise, what they say. They have a system and if something sounds too good to be true, chances are they are empty promises designed to get you to trust and open up to them.

When a Scammer asked me for money:

Most times I talk to scammers, I shut them down way before they get to the request for money, one time, I didn't. This scammer was good, at first, then he started triggering red flags, so I went all in. I pretended to be in love, crazy do anything for him love. Planning a future together, everything.

It took a week for him to ask me for money to get home from Taiwan, $50 000 - he had a shipment in customs and needed the cash to bribe officials to get it out. I told him, I didn't have that kind of money. He asked for $25 000. I told him, I didn't have that kind of money. He asked me to get a loan. I told him, I wouldn't. He told me love is about helping each other out.

Yeah, no.

Bottom Line:

No matter how wonderful he sounds, the minute he asks you for money, it's a scam. Close your computer and run. Run fast. Block him from everything and look for someone who lives close to you.

If he says he can only turn to you to ask for help, do you really want to be dating a guy with that few real world people who care about him? If he's alone in this world, chances are, there is a good reason for it. - RUN! I'm alone with few who would help me out, and I'd never ask someone online for money - NEVER. Would you?

Talk to your friends, trust what they say, and know that there are men out there, close to you, who are not scammers, willing to love you. I know that sounds hollow and sometimes even I have a hard time believing that, however, what's better? Being alone or getting taken by a scammer?

More information:

Online Dating Scams, Forensic Magazine. 

How Online Dating Scammers are Making $$ Infographic

Carol's Story about an online dating scammer

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Shannon Peel is a Digital Marketing Specialist, writer, and novelist living in the Vancouver area of British Columbia.  Follow her on social media where she writes about marketing, writing, novels, single life, divorce, parenting, and adventures with her Mini Cooper named Tori.

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