If you’re tired of being lonely, you’ve probably already looked on the Internet for romance.
Maybe you’ve already met someone. Are you falling in love with a person you haven’t actually met in person?
Are you losing your heart? What about losing your money?
It’s tough enough attracting a quality man, but we also have to worry about encountering online scammers.
Even if you’re not on an online dating site, romance scammers will try to make contact through social media sites. These scammers are everywhere and they’re usually part of a larger criminal network.
A lot of smart women lose money to romance scammers. If you’re meeting men online, you need to come up with an action plan to protect yourself from becoming a victim to a romance scam.
Protect your money.
Protect your heart.
Elizabeth shared her story in the comments on my post Lines Romance Scammers Use.
$41,000 is a lot of money to lose. That’s more money than I make in a year. It’s more money than a lot of people make in a year. We’ve all got better uses for our hard-earned money than throwing it in a scammer’s direction.
It looks like Elizabeth desperately wants to believe Mark Robert is a real person, and she’s going to meet him soon when he comes home. Then he will repay the money she “loaned” him.
She’s starting to accept the reality since she did a reverse image search and discovered the photos are stolen from a Ukrainian journalist.
I’m afraid this isn’t going to be a happy ending for Elizabeth.
REVERSE IMAGE SEARCH
The first thing I do when a man contacts me, either on an online dating site or social media, is a reverse image search. If I’m thinking of sending the first message to a man, I’ll do a reverse image search and see if I smell a scammer.
The sites I use are:
Sometimes one of the above sites won’t show any hits for the photo, but then another one shows the photo used multiple times. Yandex usually gets the best results.
Sometimes you can’t find the photo anywhere online. There are slimeballs out there who sell their photos to romance scammers. Those photos are probably not in use anywhere else except by the romance scammer, or the criminal organization the scammer works for.
If I find multiple hits of the same photo – different names and ages and different dating sites or social media – then I know this is a scammer and I report it to the dating site and include the links I found.
The dating site will probably shut the scammer’s profile down, but the scammer will probably bounce right back and create another fake profile.
After exchanging a few messages on the online dating website, it’s time to move up to phone calls.
This can be scary for some people because now you’ve put your phone number “out there”.
But you have to take a chance if you really want to move ahead and find a partner.
Use your cell phone number so you can phone and text. You can always block someone if things turn south. Usually, with legitimate men, it’s not necessary to block them. One or both of you lose interest and just move along. Nice person to talk to, but there’s no romantic spark. In most cases there’s no reason to be fearful.
Be very suspicious of someone who only wants to text and never talk. They’ll have all kinds of excuses. Apparently there are a lot of deaf and hard of hearing men out there who left that little detail off their profile! You have his cell phone number – call it and see what happens.
A scammer who’s from another country, but pretending to be from Arizona or Ontario, won’t want to talk to you because they have an accent and speak in broken English. Someone who claims to live in North America, unless it’s a regional drawl (hello Texas!), won’t speak with a heavy Eastern European accent.
Seeing as how I just brought up accents, a lot of scammers will pretend they’re from Britain but moved to whatever city in North America. I suppose British accents are easiest for scammers to mimic!
Luckily for me, I do not like British accents. British accent = pass!
My mother is from Britain, and the only person in her family to move to Canada. Most of my cousins live in Britain. I find it a very annoying accent to listen to.
People with British accents sound like they’re constantly pissed off!
I love Southern accents. I could listen to a man from Tennessee for hours!
Just be wary of profiles claiming to be British ex-pats, especially if they come up with too many excuses why they can’t meet in person. There’s a good chance it’s a romance scammer.
TOPICS TO CHAT ABOUT
So what do you talk about with a man you’ve met online?
The weather? He could have looked at the weather network before your call and can fake it that he just came in from shoveling snow.
Your job – what you do for a living. A scammer isn’t going to tell you that his job is ripping people off. He’s going to pretend to be in construction, an oil rig worker, in the military, or an engineer. If you know anything about those topics, chat him up and see if he fumbles.
Hobbies are another good thing to talk about. See if he slips up from the hobbies he mentioned on his profile.
I’ve had a few potential suitors telling me about their interest in horses. One man “from Texas” even claimed to own horses, but didn’t ride, and he also couldn’t tell me the breed of his horses. I can tell real fast if someone is lying about their horse experience. Lack thereof is more likely. It doesn’t matter to me if someone knows how to ride a horse. Just don’t lie about it cause I’ll catch you.
Local stuff is the most important thing to talk about with someone you’ve met online. If he lives in your town he should know the local landmarks, places to shop, and restaurants. He should also know local news stories and local politics.
A scammer in another part of the world can’t answer any of these questions quickly, such as what’s your favorite park. Or where’s the best place to pick blackberries around here.
A scammer will avoid answering your questions or be evasive. This will be your first clue they’re not local if they can’t answer something easy, like what’s the closest beach. Asking questions that locals can answer is the simple way to weed out the scammers.
In this day and age pretty much every cell phone and computer has a camera. There are all kinds of options for video chat – Facetime, Skype, Zoom, etc.
Do you know that Western Match has a video chat option on their website?
There is no reason why someone should be reluctant to go on a video date.
Unless, of course, they don’t look like the stolen photo on their dating profile!
The only good reason someone might not want to video date is because they live close enough to meet in person, so you can skip the video chat step!
Be very suspicious of someone who comes up with all kinds of excuses why they can not video chat. If the person you’re “dating” refuses to do a live video chat, it’s time to say good bye and move on.
THEY’RE “OUT OF TOWN”
Romantic scammers use every town in the world on dating websites to make them sound local, when in fact they’re somewhere on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
One of the excuses they’ll use for not meeting in person is because they’re “out of town” due to work.
Right now with Covid-19 emergency health orders, travel is strongly discouraged. I would have serious concerns over whether or not I’d want to date someone who is violating emergency public health laws. This tells me this person does not care about their own health and doesn’t care about anyone else’s health either. That’s not someone I want to be in a relationship with.
A few months ago I had a man, whose profile says he’s in my city, send a message and said he’s currently on a business trip in Mexico.
He’s either a scammer or someone who says to hell with the emergency health orders telling people not to travel. I sent him back a message and said “When you get home, and after you’ve done your 14 day quarantine, send me a message, and if I’m still available let’s get together for a walk.” I never heard from him again.
Follow my lead. If the “local” man says he’s out of town, tell him to call you when he gets back in town because you don’t want to be a pen pal.
MEET IN PERSON
The best way to lessen your odds of being scammed is by dating men close to where you live.
Try to meet in person after you’ve been chatting on the phone for two or three weeks.
A scammer is looking for people who are willing to be in a perpetual long-distance relationship.
Don’t be that person! Nothing is real until you meet in person. It’s a little tricky right now with the coronavirus, but it’s not impossible if you live close enough. Someone claiming to live in my town, or within an hour’s drive of my town, should at least be open to meeting in a parking lot for coffee.
If things are going well, get out and go for a socially distanced walk.
The scammer is probably telling the truth when they say they’re “out of town”. They’re lying about ever having been in your town in the first place.
A scammer who tells you they’re “out of town” should be willing to give you their address where they live when they are “in town”.
It’s time to put on your detective hat.
If it’s close enough, drive to that address and check it out. You’ll know pretty fast if your love interest has lied to you if the address doesn’t exist or you’re looking at a gas station.
If there’s an actual house at the address, go up and knock on the door. Don’t be shy. Tell the person who answers who you’re looking for. Now you’ll find out if he really lives there or is a liar. Check with the neighbors if no one answers at “his” house.
If the “boyfriend” lives in another town, province, or state, you can plunk the address into Canada Post or US Postal Service and search for a postal or zip code. These websites will let you know if the address doesn’t exist.
You can also use Google Maps and street view to see what is at the address your “boyfriend” gave you.
ASKING FOR MONEY
Once the romantic scammer has pledged their love and gained the trust of their victim, they ask for money. They might start off small, like they need to buy groceries and their wallet was stolen. They’ll always promise to repay the money. Then they’ll ask for more and more money.
They’re waiting for payment from a contract or they’re an heir and waiting for the estate funds to be released. Then there will be all kinds of taxes and legal fees that have to be paid first. Not to mention agents that need to be bribed. All of this requires the victim to keep sending money.
Here are a few reasons a scammer gives for needing money:
- in the hospital
- his child needs food
- the kid needs school supplies or clothes
- he’s in jail
- he needs to buy equipment for work
- something is stuck in customs and fees must be paid
- storage fees also need to be paid
- he has to pay a lawyer
- needs money to buy a plane ticket to visit you
- he was kidnapped and needs to pay ransom
- bank account frozen
- taxes or duty fees need to be paid
- there are document fees
- he has fines to pay
- needs to pay his employees
- he’s hiding from a dangerous person
- he was in a car crash
- needs to pay off gambling debts
- his passport/visa expired
Remember, scamming you is his job. He’ll come up with a ton of reasons why he needs to steal your money after he’s stolen your heart.
You are not a bank. Don’t give money to people you’ve never met in person. And DO NOT “loan” them any more money if they haven’t repaid the original loan.
ARE YOU “DATING” AN ONLINE SCAMMER?
If you suspect the person you’ve been “dating” online is a fake and you have sent money, do you know what to do?
- Report them to the dating site or social media where you “met”.
- Contact your local police department to report the scam.
- File a complaint with the FTC (USA)
- File a complaint with the FBI (Unsure if that’s just the US)
- Report to the Canadian anti-fraud Centre. (Canada)
Go to the Social Catfish website for assistance. You can do an image search there and scroll through their database of scammer names.
Social Catfish has a YouTube channel. Watch videos of victims sharing their story for any similarities. You can contact them to see if they’ll feature you.
Take a look at The Invisible Man report by a Canadian investigative journalism TV show called W5. The victim was scammed out of $2 million dollars and committed suicide.
Have you ever lost money to a romance scammer you met online? Tell us about your experience in the comments.
This post was published on February 22, 2021.