Online Dating is more popular than ever and has lost much of the stigma it once held. A study by Pew Research found that a majority of Americans now say online dating is a good way to meet people. As online dating websites and apps become more popular than ever, it provides a golden opportunity for scammers and spammers to take advantage of unsuspecting men and women and make fast money through a variety of scams.
According to the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and McAfee (a National Cyber Security Alliance board member), in a typical scam, the online scammer will create a fake online dating profile, complete with attractive photos. Scammers then reach out one-on-one via email, chat, text or phone call trying to establish a relationship and thereby gain trust. Once trust is established, they may ask for money for a plane ticket to visit or to help them with a tragic incident. For instance, the scammer may say that they have a life threatening illness, or they need money to pay rent.
As Valentine’s Day quickly approaches, the Stop.Think.Connect. Campaign encourages you to take the following steps to protect yourself from online scams.
- Recognize an online dating scam artist. Look for signs that your suitor may be only interested in your money – if they press you to leave the dating website you met through and to communicate using personal e-mail or instant messaging, profess instant feelings of love, or ask for money for a variety of suspicious reasons.
- Protect yourself and your personal information. Limit the amount of personal information you post online and use privacy settings to avoid sharing information widely. Be careful of where and when you choose to meet someone you’ve met online. Pick public places, let others know where you are going beforehand, and be cautious of what personal information you provide about yourself early on in a date.
- Be wary of “too good to be true” deals. Free flower bouquet offers, all-expense paid trips, free gift cards – if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Slow down and think twice before clicking on such deals, especially around holidays.
Visit DHS.gov/StopThinkConnect for more tips to avoid online scams.
Remember, True Love doesn’t cost you a penny. If you know what I mean.