Today, dating sites are not only accepted as a valid—even recommended—way of meeting your partner, but as a general rule most of the top dating sites for singles over 50 have gone to great lengths to protect users from data fraud and scams, with profiles checked to make sure they are set up by legitimate users.
Nevertheless, it is impossible to be secure when it comes to people’s intentions. The fact remains that just as you can’t trust everyone in the ‘real’ world of face-to-face interactions, you also need to be wary of people online who might not be everything they say they are.
What Do Scammers Want?
In simple terms: money. Most scammers communicate from far-off locations overseas and set up profiles on dating sites with the express purpose of reaching out to vulnerable users. The majority of cases, but not all, are of men on the lookout for women. They appeal to those in search of love and win them over in order to try and trick them out of money.
But I’m Too Smart to Fall for Tricks Like This!
Unfortunately, intelligence levels are no measure of protection against skilled scammers who are experienced in tricks of the heart. They know how to forge connections, to communicate, to make you feel loved and understood. You will feel like you trust and know them completely, and that they couldn’t possibly surprise you. Until they do.
Seniors are often chosen as targets by scammers due to their stage of life, where they may have built up a secure financial base, and may also be lonely and looking for someone who understands them. Some seniors might be less experienced with online safety etiquette and therefore less suspicious of certain warning signs, however ‘smart’ they are in other aspects of their lives.
Below are a few top tips we have drawn up for how to remain alert and on the lookout for online dating scams.
1. What Sort of Picture(s) Are on Their Profile?
Take a careful look at profile pictures before getting drawn into a conversation with any member of a dating site. Are the pictures clear, or is their face obstructed? Do they look like the age they claim to be? Does the location look representative of where they claim to live? The best and most trustworthy photos are ‘real life’ ones that don’t look like they’re using models plucked straight out of Shutterstock. Steer clear of profiles with only a couple of photos—the more trustworthy the profile, the more pictures will have been uploaded.
There are some services available that you might like to try, for example, socialcatfish.com, where you can verify an image by putting it into their website, and checking that the same picture isn't being used in multiple profiles under different names on other sites.
2. Where Are They Really Based?
A trick often used by scammers is to pretend that they are on military deployment in another country. Alternatively, they might always seem to be ‘away on business.' If they are looking for a partner in a certain location, but never actually seem to be in that location, then that should be a major warning sign.
Try to initiate a video chat. Scammers will generally avoid showing their face—perhaps because it doesn’t match the picture(s) on their profile. An accent can easily be put on to convince you where they are from, but a face is near impossible to fake! If they make too many excuses about their webcam being broken, or quality being poor, take note and proceed with extreme caution (if at all!).
3. Are They Avoiding Meeting in Person?
Once you have met somebody online and exchanged the first few messages, you really should be gearing up for a first meeting. Try to avoid long phone conversations that might lead you to share too much personal information, and set-up that first real-life meeting as soon as possible, in a neutral location like a coffee shop.
If they are clearly avoiding meeting in person—they might emphasize how much they would love to meet up, but things keep unexpectedly coming up that mysteriously end up canceling the date—then that is another serious warning sign. Scammers don't want to meet in person because they are not who they say they are! They might claim they need money for a ticket to travel, or that they arrived but got detained in customs and need money for release from the border officials. Either way, keep your antennae attuned to any suspicious avoidance of meeting up. And it goes without saying—do NOT send any money!
4. Money, Money, Money
Every online dater knows they shouldn’t be sending money to strangers they meet on the internet. But human nature is susceptible to exceptional circumstances that make you override your natural instinct. Scammers are always coming up with new and inventive ways to get you to part with your money.
If a stranger asks you for money, it’s obvious to anyone that you shouldn’t give it. If a stranger professes his love for you and then asks for money, you probably would say no as well. If this same stranger (who loves and understands you) wants to send you a gift, and you get a phone call from a third party telling you that the package has arrived but requires customs fees, you might just redeem the package without connecting the dots. Scammers don’t always work alone. Financial requests might not come directly from the online suitor—but stay alert to anything money-related that is connected to them or their ‘business’ ventures, and keep your wallet firmly shut.
5. Keep Your Personal Data Personal
With your guard raised as high as possible on the money front, be careful not to let it down elsewhere. Some scammers might be after information rather than straightforward cash. If your online suitor (who has gained your trust in a short amount of time, loves you deeply but can’t meet up) sends you a link to a mobile app, game, or service that they want you to ‘try out’, this is often a trick to get you to give out financial information, or download malware that will steal your personal data.
Is It Best to Steer Clear of Online Dating?
There is truly no need to let safety worries put you off the world of online dating! Just like you learn how to navigate the world of ‘real life' people with safety and caution, everyone also needs to learn how to protect themselves from less tangible, but just as ‘real,' online threats. It is important to know how to spot the warning signs and conduct ourselves safely in all our interactions, both face-to-face and from behind a screen. You just need to make sure to keep in mind all the things mentioned above, and stay alert to anything strange. But at the end of the day, remember – there are literally millions of genuine, well-intentioned people using online dating sites, and your chances of finding love online have never been greater!