With Valentine’s Day nearly here, the San Diego branch of the Federal Bureau of Investigation has issued a guide to staying safe on online dating sites. In it, they explore some of the scams that people may try to pull off on these sites and basic social media channels. You’ll want to heed the tips on hand so that you never find yourself put in jeopardy by someone who isn’t who they claim to be.
There are two types of frauds that the FBI is particularly concerned about. One works by way of what essentially amounts to blackmail. After striking up a dialogue on a legitimate dating site, the individual perpetrating the scam will then invite you to pick up that dialogue on social networks. After the perpetrator gains enough sensitive messages about their target, they will upload that correspondence to a public forum and then attempt to get the target to send them money in order to have any and all information taken offline. Otherwise, they’ll keep things like photos, phone numbers, and whole conversations up for the world to see.
Another scam involves taking advantage of an individual’s good will. This scam also plays the long game, and for a good long while, you may not realize that you’re being targeted. The conversations will go along smoothly for months so that you get lulled into trusting that person.
Then, the person, feeling that they have you where they want you, will make a request for funds. They may have a sob story about some financial difficulty that only you can help with, and once they get you to hand over funds the one time, they’ll continue to make unreasonable requests while they have you on the line.
Scams like these have taken on the moniker of being “Catfished.” As the FBI relates, there are things you can look out for and precautions you can take in order to protect yourself.
First, make sure that you’re sticking with websites that have a fairly well-known reputation for being reliable. This will afford you more protection than other sites that are less than reputable. If you’re on this site or others, try to keep communications going via that vaunted site, as heading to social media, especially early on, could put you at risk.
Alarms should start going off in your head if someone you’ve connected with produces some excuse to request money or assistance in some other manner. If you’ve continually made plans to meet and they keep putting them off, that’s also a bad sign. In today’s Google age, do research on persons you meet, and be wary of professional-looking photos that look like they were pulled from the web.
Finally, if you think you’ve been targeted, the FBI advises getting in touch with the Internet Crime Complaint Center.