For the past fifteen years I've used the internet as a means to meet people for friendship or a date, depending on my relationship status at the time. I started with Bulletin Board Systems (BBS), moved to forums and chat rooms, and then eventually online dating sites and social networking applications. Needless to say, I've run across my fair share of scams during that time, but haven't fallen prey to one yet. Knock on wood.
Yet every single day I receive an email from one source or another telling me about someone who has lost thousands of dollars in an internet dating scam. Whether its a press release extolling the virtues of a site that does background checks, a news piece warning the public or someone asking for advice, I get get just as upset each time. Like the 65-year-old woman in Brisbane who was duped out of $60,000 and forced to declare bankruptcy because she was targeted by not one, but two Nigerian internet dating scams. Even a former flame of mine was targeted by a Russian dating agency, who eventually figured out it was an internet dating scam, but not before he shared some very personal information with the "lady", first.
These kinds of stories infuriate me for several reasons:
- The more that internet dating scams occur and/or are talked about, the more the singles are leery to meet anyone online, much less create a profile at an online dating site;
- People who are net savvy are being taken in by these scams as well as newbies to online dating, although perhaps not with the same frequency;
- Many of the people targeted by these internet dating scams don't report them because of fear, shame or guilt.
I'd personally love to stamp out all internet dating scams if I could, but the only way I know how is to inform people of what a scam looks like and what kinds of questions to ask yourself before getting involved with someone online. That's why I've written an article about it (How To Avoid Internet Dating Scams).
For those of you who meet people online, how have you avoided internet dating scams? Or, if you've had the unfortunate circumstance of knowing first hand what an internet dating scam is, what did you do? What were the signs, if any, that it was a scam? And if you've been scammed, please share add your story to this database, so that others can use this information so they don't get scammed, too.