How to spot and avoid scammers on dating apps

Ever since the Netflix documentaries “Bad Vegan” and “The Tinder Swindler” first caught the attention of streaming audiences, there’s been a lot of talk about online romance scams — and a lot of questions about how to avoid dating. being scammed when dating online.

The “Bad Vegan” docuseries follows famed former restaurateur Sarma Melngailis’ fall from grace after she became involved with Anthony Strangis, a man she met on Twitter and later married. Strangis reportedly told his wife that if she passed a series of tests, which included transferring large sums of money from the restaurant to him, he could make his beloved pit bull live forever – among other outlandish promises.

“The Tinder Swindler” tells the story of con artist Shimon Hayut, known as Simon Leviev, who allegedly used Tinder to meet the women he would go on to scam out of millions of dollars. Posing as the son of a wealthy diamond tycoon, Hayut wooed his targets with high-end dates before convincing them to lend him money, claiming he was in danger and unable to use his own credit cards for “security reasons”. He has since been banned from Tinder and several other dating apps and sites.

If these documentaries have made you suspicious of the people you meet when looking for love online, read on. Below, experts explain the red flags to look out for and what to do if you match someone who looks suspicious.

1. Their story is full of inconsistencies.

When the information someone shared with you on an app doesn’t match what they told you via text or elsewhere, you have reason to be suspicious. When a person is lying, they may not remember what they told you before, making it difficult to read their story. Or if they’re desperate to keep you engaged, they’ll just tell you what they think you want to hear. Maybe they first told you they don’t watch football, but now they tell you they have subscriptions for your favorite team.

“The scammers will do anything to get their way into your heart, including providing false or misleading information and using your emotions as a weapon to manipulate,” said Jasmine Diaz, dating expert and matchmaker at Diaz Dating Group, at HuffPost. “It is important to monitor and listen to these inconsistencies; otherwise, you might find yourself on the receiving end of the grief.

2. They sound too good to be true.

“That can include expensive trips, lavish gifts, or over-the-top displays of affection in an effort to catch you off guard,” Diaz said.

“Every relationship will go through a stage of young marriage, but if you think your partner is ‘too good to be true,’ it probably is,” she said.

Once a love bomber has gotten you all the attention, gifts, and compliments, they’ll pull the rug out from under you.

“It’s classic bait,” Virginia Gilbert, a marriage and family therapist, told HuffPost. “They seem to do all the giving until you realize you’re doing all the giving and they’ve used you for your body, your wallet, your home, your caring ability and your empathy.”

3. They refuse to video chat or meet you IRL.

Towfiqu Barbhuiya/EyeEm via Getty Images

If your partner refuses to video chat or meet in person, it could be a sign that they are not who they say they are.

Scammers may claim that the camera on their phone or laptop is broken or tell you that they work abroad or travel to places where their internet or cellular connection is poor. They get suspicious when you suggest video chatting or meeting in person and they’ll offer you any excuse to avoid it because they don’t want to blow their cover.

“Technology has advanced at such a pace that refusing to meet on FaceTime, Zoom, or at your local coffee shop, if you live in the same city, is very questionable,” Diaz said.. “There aren’t enough internet outages or vehicle breakdowns that can account for the lack of virtual or IRL dating, so any refusal to keep your communication on the phone or through messaging should be met with extreme caution. ”

4. They have no digital footprint.

Another red flag? The person has little or no online presence: no social media accounts (or very recently created ones), no LinkedIn profile, no mention of them in a local newspaper or on the his company. Yes, there are people who tend to be more private online, but if you can’t find any trace of them, that could be a concern.

“Some professions may require a certain level of confidentiality for legal or ethical reasons. Therapists, for example, set digital boundaries by limiting access to their personal lives, but even these professionals have a digital footprint,” Diaz said. “If the person you met on an app can’t be found online, you may be dealing with a scammer.”

There might be rare instances where you match someone who lives “off the grid,” Diaz said, “but those people are rare and less likely to be on a dating app to begin with.”

“Any refusal to keep your communication on the phone or by messaging should be met with extreme caution.”

– Jasmine Diaz, dating expert and matchmaker

5. They ask a lot of questions related to your finances.

Be aware of the topics they tend to bring up, especially early in the relationship, said Maria Sullivan, vice president of Dating.com. Do they seem too materialistic to you? Are they more focused on your financial situation than getting to know you as a person? It could be a sign that they are looking for someone to scam.

“If you notice a potential partner asking questions like what kind of car you drive or what your finances look like – anything that sounds like they’re digging to find out if you have money to spend – you could be dealing with a scam artist,” Sullivan said.

6. They can be evasive about their own life.

That could mean refusing to answer your questions, not integrating you into their lives, or limiting the time they spend with you, Diaz said.

“Not all generally evasive people are scammers, but it’s an important thing to consider if the person you’re dating or in a relationship is never around, hasn’t introduced you to their friends, or is avoiding chatting. of his profession,” she added. “If you know very little about their lives, it’s time to ask yourself why.”

7. They ask you for money.

For some, this may seem like an obvious red flag. But when you feel like you’ve developed an emotional connection with someone, you’re more likely to give in to those demands. We have a human tendency to want to help people, especially those who are dear to us. Scammers will take advantage of this kindness.

“While helping someone might seem like the right thing to do, that’s exactly what the dating scammer wants,” Sullivan said. “If you find someone you just met online asking for financial help, consider that a huge red flag that you’ve met a scammer.”

“While helping someone might seem like the right thing to do, that’s exactly what the dating scammer wants.”

– Maria Sullivan, Vice President of Dating.com

Often fraudsters cook up a story about an emergency situation they have found themselves in that requires you to send them money as soon as possible.

Examples include: “‘My car broke down on the way to work, but I don’t get paid until next week,'” Diaz said. “Or ‘I lost my credit card, and now I’m stuck in town filling up’ or ‘People are after me’.”

“Scammers are good at tricking you into thinking the decision to give them money was your idea and will use your empathy as a tool to get what they want,” she added.

What to do if you think you are dealing with a scammer

Here's what you should — and shouldn't — do if you think you're the target of romance analysis.

Wenmei Zhou via Getty Images

Here’s what you should — and shouldn’t — do if you think you’re the target of romance analysis.

Ignore the urge to accuse them of being fraudsters – a confrontation like this could lead to harassment. Instead, immediately cut off communication and report them to the dating app or site you met them on.

“Notify the platform of your suspicions and let them investigate,” Diaz said. (You can also report it to the Federal Trade Commission through their website.)

Sullivan also suggested deleting them as friends or blocking them on all social media sites so they can’t reach you.

“The more access a scammer has to your personal information, the better for them,” she said.

How to protect yourself to move forward

Be careful about how much personal information you share on your dating profiles (and online in general). Stick to the basics, Diaz said: your first name, your age, and what you’re looking for in a partner or relationship.

“Scammers can take sensitive information like birthdates, addresses, employer information and even email addresses to scam an unsuspecting bachelor,” she said. “Keep your digital street smarts up to date as you browse online.”

When connecting with a potential romantic interest, do your homework first. Google their name, do a reverse image search on their profile pictures, check their social media accounts and any business pages if they have any. See if the details match what they told you.

Experts also recommend telling a trusted friend or family member about your new love. If they have concerns, it could indicate that something is wrong.

Ultimately, it’s important to be aware of potential red flags without letting the fear of being scammed stop you from fully seeking love.

“Be vigilant about the safety of your online dating, but don’t be afraid to take calculated risks,” Diaz said. “At the end of the day, we’re all strangers trying to find each other, and most online dating people are good people.”

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