The big online dating “season” is just starting, which makes this a good time to talk about online dating scammers.
I get a lot of people asking me how to spot a scammer online and the truth is, spotting a scammer is at once very difficult and very easy.
Back when I used to work as a moderator, it was my job to spot scammers before they even got a chance to try and scam someone by looking at their profiles, and sometimes the messages they tried to send. Some scammers are easy to spot like that.
They’d be dating on a site set up to accept only people in the UK, but their profile would say they were in Africa (so how did they get the number of a UK credit card, the only type of card they could use to sign up?)
Their pictures would be obviously posed pictures taken in a studio of very attractive women or pictures blatantly scanned from a magazine (grain showing).
Their profiles would be a collection of adjectives (“I’m happy, loving, caring…”) that were sometimes pretty bizarre and obviously taken from a dictionary without being fully understood.
Some would go on about being “God fearing” and ask for money straight away, or even try the Nigerian money scam in their first message!
So yes, these scammers are easy to spot before they even make a move, but obviously not all scammers are that obvious and stupid. Today’s scammers are often far more adept at being indistinguishable from decent people, until they make their move.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that once they make their move, scammers are really easy to spot. This is because scammers want your money, so sooner or later they will make some excuse and ask for money. Sometimes they will work you for a while – weeks or even months – before asking for money, but sooner or later they will. Usually without ever having met you in person.
Unfortunately, by that point, their would be victim is already emotionally invested in the situation, which makes it harder to come to terms with the fact that you’re dealing with a scammer. This is why it’s important to remember that if someone asks you for money so early on, it’s a bad idea, regardless of whether or not they are a professional, known scammer. The best thing to do is refuse and move on.