How to protect yourself from money scams at dating and other online social sites?

How to protect yourself from Money scams at online sites

These days everything is online. You want to make friends, play slots or other games, invest money, refund money, doing business, find a date, finding your marriage partner every bit of your life has been snatched by the virtual or the internet world. While things are made easy by technology but the truth is it has also led to many scams, fake news, frauds, suicides and such more disturbing things.

There are hundreds of stories about blue whale game that is a twisted suicide challenge which appears to goad vulnerable teens into killing themselves. The horrifyingly dangerous game has been linked to at least 130 teen deaths across Russia only, with tens of from other countries.

Recently even twitter was not spared when many people reported that a guy posing himself as Prince Harry asks for money for his charity in African countries. He first follows you in twitter and then sends you messages or tweets asking for money.

In Canada the Toronto police is alerting people for many spam phone calls where the caller tells you that he is calling from 911 and then asks you that he needs your credit card number for secure reasons and when the victim falls prey all his or her money is lost.

Well there are so many such online incidents. The most prevalent is money scams from dating sites.

Millions of Americans use dating sites, social networking sites, and chat rooms to meet people and many forge successful relationships. But scammers also use these sites to meet potential victims. They create fake profiles to build online relationships, and eventually convince people to send money in the name of love.

The Federal Trade Commission receives thousands of reports each year about romance scammers who create fake online relationships only to steal their victims’ money. Unfortunately, an online love interest who asks for money is almost certainly a scam artist.

The FTC’s new infographic, developed with the American Bankers Association Foundation, lists common signs of online dating scams and what to do if someone you meet online asks you for money.

Below are some tips to identify a real romance versus a scammer cruising for a target.

Online money scam- Infographic

Scammers take advantage of people looking for romantic partners, often via dating websites, apps or social media by pretending to be prospective companions. They play on emotional triggers to get you to provide money, gifts or personal details.

How such scam works

Dating and romance scams often take place through online dating websites, but scammers may also use social media or email to make contact. They have even been known to telephone their victims as a first introduction. These scams are also known as ‘catfishing’.

Scammers typically create fake online profiles designed to  lure you in. They may use a fictional name, or falsely take on the identities of real, trusted people such as military personnel, aid workers or professionals working abroad.

Dating and romance scammers will express strong emotions for you in a relatively short period of time, and will suggest you move the relationship away from the website to a more private channel, such as phone, email or instant messaging. They often claim to be travelling or working overseas.

Scammers will go to great lengths to gain your interest and trust, such as showering you with loving words, sharing ‘personal information’ and even sending you gifts. They may take months to build what may feel like the romance of a lifetime and may even pretend to book flights to visit you, but never actually come.

Once they have gained your trust and your defences are down, they will ask you (either subtly or directly) for money, gifts or your banking/credit card details. They may also ask you to send pictures or videos of yourself, possibly of an intimate nature.

Often the scammer will pretend to need the money for some sort of personal emergency. For example, they may claim to have a severely ill family member who requires immediate medical attention such as an expensive operation, or they may claim financial hardship due to an unfortunate run of bad luck such as a failed business or mugging in the street.  The scammer may also claim they want to travel to visit you, but cannot afford it unless you are able to lend them money to cover flights or other travel expenses.

Sometimes the scammer will send you valuable items such as laptop computers and mobile phones, and ask you to resend them somewhere. They will invent some reason why they need you to send the goods but this is just a way for them to cover up their criminal activity.  Alternatively they may ask you to buy the goods yourself and send them somewhere. You might even be asked to accept money into your bank account and then transfer it to someone else.

In all the above scenarios note that they are very likely to be forms of money laundering which is a criminal offence. Never agree to transfer money for someone else.

Dating and romance scammers can also pose a risk to your personal safety as they are often part of international criminal networks. Scammers may attempt to lure their victims overseas, putting you in dangerous situations that can have tragic consequences.

Regardless of how you are scammed, you could end up losing a lot of money. Online dating and romance scams cheat people out of millions every year. The money you send to scammers is almost always impossible to recover and, in addition, you may feel long-lasting emotional betrayal at the hands of someone you thought loved you.

How to know about a fake online profile at a dating site or even at Facebook

  • Fake online profiles do not have their own photo but of some other specially of a known personality.
  • They have very few contacts at Facebook profiles and that too are fake.
  • They often call you from different phone numbers or from calling cards.
  • They do not write much or disclose much when chatting but ask you to call or they call themselves.
  • You meet someone online and after just a few contacts they profess strong feelings for you, and ask to chat with you privately.
  • After gaining your trust – often waiting weeks, months or even years – they tell you an elaborate story and ask for money, gifts or your bank account/credit card details.
  • If you don’t send money straight away, their messages and calls become more desperate, persistent or direct. If you do send money, they  continue to ask you to send more.

How to protect yourself and your money online?

  • Never accept any friend request or dating request unless your intuition says or you guess or feel that he or she is genuine.
  • Never disclose your personal information like phone number, banking details or family before testing the person or meeting them in person.
  • Also never meet the person alone for the first time. If you need to meet then always choose a public place and inform your family about your meeting.
  • Never send money to any dating partner. Always consider the possibility that the approach may be a scam, particularly if the warning signs listed above appear. Try to remove the emotion from your decision making no matter how caring or persistent the ‘prospective partner’ is.
  • Do an image search of your admirer to help determine if they really are who they say they are. You can use image search services such as Google or TinEye.
  • Be alert to things like spelling and grammar mistakes, inconsistencies in their stories and others signs that it’s a scam like their camera never working if you want to Skype each other.
  • Be cautious when sharing personal pictures or videos with prospective partners, especially if you’ve never met them before. Scammers are known to blackmail their targets using compromising material.
  • Be wary of requests for money. Never send money or give credit card details, online account details, or copies of important personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust.
  • Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-front payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or electronic currency, like Bitcoin. It is rare to recover money sent this way.
  • Do not agree to transfer money for someone else: money laundering is a criminal offence.
  • Be very careful about how much personal information you share on social network sites. Scammers can use your information and pictures to create a fake identity or to target you with a scam.
  • If you think you have been scammed, report it to the website, app, or social media site where the scammer first approached you. Let them know the scammer’s profile name and any other details that may help them to stop others being scammed.
  • Take the screenshot of his or her profile and send it to them.
  • If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.

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