I think someone I know is being scammed online, what do I do?

Sometimes, you suspect someone close to you is being scammed on an online dating site. It could be a relative or a friend looking for love who’s come across something he or she think is going to be the next love of their lives. When they tell you about it, though, it doesn’t quite sound right. Something makes you suspicious. Maybe you can’t even put your finger on it. If it’s a parent, this could be particularly tough, because you might end up feeling like you are being overly suspicious of anyone your mother/father like.

Because I’ve written a few posts about scammers on here, I have a few pages with hundreds of comments, each talking about a different scammer. Women exchange stories and have found these pages very useful when trying to decide whether the person they are talking to is a scammer. But for these women to get here, they have to have had the initial suspicion to Google the guy’s name. Sometimes, though, people come here because someone else has fallen for a suspected scammer. If the person being scammed doesn’t suspect anything at all, it’s harder to convince them that they are being scammed. Here are some tips that might help:

1. Be very tactful – this is a delicate subject. The person you’re trying to save may actually be in love with the scammer. You need to break it to them gently, rather than be forceful.

2. Don’t make them feel stupid – scammers are pros and they’ve perfected their method over the years. People who are vulnerable or new to the Internet may appear silly to you for having fallen for the scam, but without prior knowledge of how things work, these scams can actually look like the real thing.

3. Act quickly – the more involved the person becomes with the scammer, the harder it’s going to be to extract them and the more painful it’s going to be for them.

4. If your relative/friend tells you they’ve started dating online, a good way around the problem is to give them a lecture about scammers before they even start communicating. Tell them the telltale signs of a scammer (you can find some here and here) so that if a scammer does contact, they will be able to spot him straight away. This method is also good as a way to avoid having a conversation with them about any specific person they may be talking to. It might make them suspicious enough to search for more info themselves.

5. Perform the checks on the scammer yourself – Google their name for one, which may show you all you need to know.

6. If this person has contacted your friend/relative via an online dating site and still has a profile there, contact the dating site customer service department. They may not admit that this is a scammer (to save face), but the profile will be taken down quickly, as they will be able to tell it’s a scammer from just looking at it. You should be able to use this as proof.

Dating sites selling user profiles. Dodgy!

I know it’s sometimes difficult to think of the individual user when you run a dating site or work for a dating company. When I worked in one, we used to often think of things in terms of trends, statistics, demographics. When we started a new site, we’d sometimes populate it with suitable people from our database and email them to say they got a new account set up. Sometimes we’d even give them a trial subscription to try it out. Some people complained, but most only complained because they didn’t realise the new website was also owned by us and thought we’d sold their details on. We figured, these people already have us our details, so they might like to try a new site where they can meet more people, especially if they can try it out for free. I still don’t see anything inherently wrong with that. There are also a few companies that run white label dating sites where the whole business model is based on providing new websites in the “family” with an off the shelf database to kick things off. But when you start selling your users’ data to the highest bidder, well, that’s just plain nasty.

Check out this article about this worrying trend. I won’t call it a new trend, because it’s been going on for years. It’s just that now someone’s caught on and is spreading the word.