While there are people using the internet, there will be those that are attempting to part them from their hard-earned money through scams.
We've compiled a short list of the most likely scams you will encounter during your time when online dating — and at the end of this page, we've listed some warning signs for you to look out for.
They are not who they say they are
Just like face-to-face dating, singles online try to put their best foot forward, but potential online dates have the advantage of hiding behind a computer. This can lead to them seeming a whole lot "dreamier" than they really are. An unpleasant surprise, when you meet up in real life can often feel like, or be, a scam.
Trust your instincts. If something sounds wrong — like an architect who says he's 35 years old but has 25 years of professional experience — start asking questions.
If you're concerned about the person's age, ask him or her to send a recent photo. (Realising of course, that the recent picture they send may not truly be recent — it may not even be a picture of them.)
Also, protect yourself from people who might emotionally unstable. Until you get to know them better, conceal your public information, agree to only meeting in public, and always let a close friend know where you will be.
If a potential date asks for your personal e-mail early on in your conversation, be aware that they may just be trying to add your details to an online mailing list.
AngelicMatch provides you with an online mailbox that keeps your conversation in a controlled environment to help prevent against such scams, and we recommend not giving out your personal details until you've met and established a relationship with any potential partners.
When it comes to telephone numbers, we recommend that you never give out your home phone number as scammers may be able to find your address from this, instead only give your mobile phone number which are not geographically identifiable beyond the country you are in.
Nigerian 419 Scam
Names after a now-defunct Nigerian law, the 419 scam is a classic amongst online dating scams. We're sorry to say that you are likely to come across this scam if you do online dating for any length of time.
This scam however, is fairly easy to identify, as their are some recurring themes:
- You are approached by someone living abroad, or who claims to live in your country but works abroad — usually Nigeria, but other countries that make an appearance include Ghana, Ivory Coast and other West African countries. Scammers also often claim to be soldiers posted overseas in war zones such as Afghanistan and Iraq.
- You are befriended, and over time trust is built between you and the scammer.
- The scammer reveals their need for money for some plausible-sounding reason and makes you believe you're the only person in a position to pay it.
- You send them the requested money (usually via Western Union)
- You never hear from them again, or worse, you are asked for more and more money.
The usual reasons given by scammers for needing money include:
- An advance on their wages ("I won't get paid until my contract is finished, and I've run out of money")
- A medical emergency ("My mother is in need of an operation and needs £300 to pay for it")
- Urgently needs a ticket to the UK ("My mother is ill and I need to see her before she dies")
- Needs money to tide them over while they finish their education, eg a university degree
- Needs to buy a mobile phone ("My mother is dying and I need to speak to her urgently")
- Needs your authorisation (and a payment) to get leave from the army to visit you
Of course, it could be a variation of the above — but the reasons for needing the money will tend to sound plausible and reasonable. Stop! Do not be tempted to part with your money — you'll never see it again, and you'll never see the person you sent it to.
How to spot scammers
Here are some tell-tale signs that you've been approached by a scammer:
- the person who is approaching is brand new to the website, has only logged in a few times, or logs in very rarely
- the profile is written in poor, broken English
- the photograph is fake-looking, or obviously fake, or copied from somewhere on the internet
- the photograph is of military personnel or man/woman in army/navy uniform
- the photograph is of a too-good-to-be-true young woman or man or is obivously a posed photo of a model
- your correspondent asks you to go straight from on-site messaging to Instant Messaging (IM), or regular e-mail (they don't want the evidence of their scamming to be visible to the site administrators as they will invariably be kicked off and blocked from using the site)
- you receive a message describing an outlandish situation with a request for monetary assistance
- the scammer claims to normally live in your country but is currently working abroad or posted in the army abroad
Bear in mind that any of these characteristics can apply to genuine online dating site members as well, so just because one or two of these tell-tale signs is present doesn't necessarily mean you're being scammed — but you should always be on your guard.
What to do if you've been scammed
If you are in a correspondence with somebody who fits the description above and you suspect they are a scammer, here's what to do.
- DO NOT enter into any further correspondence with them once they have revealed themselves as a scammer by asking you for money. Don't feel guilty about this (it may sound incredible, but some of us are SO polite we feel bad about not replying to messages from criminals).
- DO report the person to us straight away using the "report" button provided alongside every inbox message.
- DO NOT SEND MONEY, no matter how plausible their story is, no matter how long you've been corresponding with the person, no matter how much you feel they are trustworthy, no matter how confident you feel that they are telling the truth.
If you have already sent money to somebody abroad, the chances are you have been scammed. Unfortunately the chances of your getting the money back are very slim indeed. However, you should go to the Police and let them know. They will be able to advise you further.
Last updated: Monday, 14th September 2015