They Ask You to Keep the Relationship Secret

Their Photos Seem Too Perfect. Leading on, they seem to look great in all their photos, with perhaps a little too many appearing staged and digitally altered

A star-crossed lovers or secret agent-regular citizen scenario may seem exciting – but in reality, anyone who wants to keep your ‘special romance’ a secret is more than likely a conman

They Ask for Financial Help. When someone online asks you for money, alarm bells should be ringing all over the place – no matter the reason given and how convincing they are

They Ask for Personal Info/Explicit Media. Similarly to above, never send any sensitive information or compromising images/videos to anyone you meet online; remember that webcam/smart device footage can be recorded also

Now that we’ve covered what to be on the lookout for, we can more easily identify what can be done to prevent online dating scams from unfolding. Here are some preventative tips/actions:

Research Online Dating Sites Before Joining. Don’t simply sign up with any random dating website – try your best to choose one that seems trustworthy, and ensure that your profile doesn’t openly display any personal contact details, such as your phone number and email address, for strangers to see

Don’t Just Accept Everything People Say. It’s perfectly fine to challenge a stranger’s claims in a light, conversational way; for instance, if someone says they’re a doctor, ask some questions to better gauge whether they are being deceptive

Be Careful About What You Share. When it comes to online relationships, never share PII (personally identifiable information) or explicit media depicting yourself; also, be mindful of how you present yourself/what you share during webcam and video call-based interactions

Don’t Meet People Unless You Trust Them. If you do have doubts or concerns about someone you’ve been chatting with online, never meet up with them in person

Always Begin by Meeting in Public. For personal safety, always arrange to meet people in public; if they keep asking to meet in remote places, this could lead to a dangerous situation

Online dating scammers can be very persuasive when it comes to asking victims for money; be highly suspicious if this happens, take a step back, discuss the situation with people you trust – and DO NOT send any money

Use Online Protection Software. Having an antivirus and anti-malware suite installed from a reputable provider can significantly bolster your online shield, working to protect you from threats such as Phishing tactics (involving malware and malicious websites) utilized by online dating scammers

Listen to Your Gut. As we sit behind our screens, completely immersed, it can be easy to forget just how effective our instincts can be at identifying potential threats – don’t ignore them!

Talk to Your Friends & Family. One of the best ways to prevent bad things from happening online is to stop, take a step back, and ask for second opinions from those closest to you.

Online dating scams – also known as Romance or Sweetheart Scams – have been plaguing the internet for some time, with US victims collectively losing hundreds of millions of dollars every year.

The nefarious practise is carried out by cyber criminals seeking to exploit that very basic human need for connection and intimacy – more than often for financial gain.

Since everyone, at some point in their life, could suffer from loneliness and desperation, this vulnerable state could impede a person’s better judgement, and ultimately widen a scammer’s trap.

Thankfully, by exploring how online dating scams operate, we can all stand a better chance of identifying them, and most importantly, avoiding them altogether. Let’s dive in…

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