Dating scammers portray themselves as doing the incredible all while maintaining a seemingly modest and approachable disposition.
These types see an online dating site as merely a forum for running scams or for living out some sort of fantasy life– all at the expense of others. Whether the investment is financial or emotional on the part of the innocent, devastating loss is often the end result.
Online dating scammers (or predators) are highly adept at manipulating others. They are so practiced in their craft that the red flags to their behavior are typically only realized after someone’s heart (or pocketbook) has been broken. To keep from becoming a statistic in the online dating scene, watch for these common indicators:
Red flag #1: A life story that is larger than life itself
Scammers can’t work their magic without first drawing in a victim. Therefore, their life story is often a feel good tale of rags to riches, jet-setting, charity and privilege. Or, he or she may be the underdog fighting for some good cause. Whatever the case, dating scammers portray themselves as doing the incredible all while maintaining a seemingly modest and approachable disposition.
Red flag #2: The wonderful life tinged with tragedy
Just like the rising action of a well-laid plot, there will likely be a parent, a sibling or grandparent struck down by a rare illness or sudden accident. If not this, it will be something to pull at the heartstrings of their victim. At this point, the financial scammer may begin sniffing around for money. Conversely, the emotional scammer is simply looking to feed on sympathy.
Red flag #3: Communication is erratic
Once the trap is laid, the predator will subtly arrange it so that he or she does all the contacting. This contact comes only between certain hours, certain days of the week or a combination thereof. During these times, he or she may talk in hushed tones or end phone calls abruptly. There may even be long spans without communication.
One of the biggest red flags of an online dating scammer is someone who claims to travel extensively or make trips ‘out of the country’ for extended periods of time. The scammer may claim to be stranded in a remote African country, and require your assistance to get home. African countries are the source of numerous dating scams; be especially wary of Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, and the Ivory Coast.
Red flag#4: An online relationship that feels meant to be — until it’s time to meet
An online dating scammer will make any excuse he or she can to not meet in person. Or, he or she will agree to meet but cancel or consistently put off plans at the last minute. This will be weaved with heartrending excuses, promises to meet at a later date or more ‘tragedies’ in order to distract a victim from questioning the predator’s motives.
Red flag #5: An online relationship that is one-sided and all give
A relationship with an online dating predator is not only financially or emotionally draining, it never goes anywhere. After a while, the victim begins to notice that everything revolves totally around the person on the other end. When the jig is finally up, the scammer will likely disappear without a trace and move on to the next victim.
What to do in the case of a suspected online dating scammer:
Cut all communication immediately. Do not answer emails and, if necessary, change phone numbers. Expect further attempts at manipulation via sob stories, emotional blackmail or even new and sudden “misfortunes”. Do not be drawn back in to the trap. Be prepared to document any behavior that suddenly becomes abusive or threatening and report it immediately to the online dating site hosting the scammer’s profile and/or the police.
Practice online dating safety. Just because an online dating site implements identity confirmation procedures or background checks, do not toss personal accountability aside. For the dating scammer, a victim is nothing more than someone who aids in keeping the con alive. It is therefore imperative to establish firm emotional boundaries when choosing to meet and date people online.
Do not feel stupid. Getting financially or emotionally scammed by an online dating predator has nothing to do with one’s intelligence. Even the most astute individual can be drawn in by a skilled con artist. What matters most is learning from the experience and maintaining control of one’s online dating experience at all times.