Romance scams

Only a short time ago, admitting that you met someone online was sure to raise a few eyebrows, but with the increase in reputable dating websites and apps, there’s been a shift in what’s considered normal dating behavior. Unfortunately, the very same popularity and acceptance of online dating has made the whole concept rife with scammers and fraud attempts; and with the growing sophistication of software that lets “bots” do the dirty work, it can be hard to tell the difference between a genuine romance-seeker and a scammer.

One company, Scamalytics, is turning the tables on scammers by using the very same algorithms that help find a closely compatible match between two would-be daters. With hundreds of different variables that help bring people together, the company can use similar characteristics and variables to catch scammers in the act.

While Scamalytics is a service that the dating website would contract—as opposed to something that individual users would sign up for—there are a few key indicators that can help you weed out the scams in order to have a safe and successful online dating experience.

Know the purpose of the site you’re on

There is literally something for everybody when it comes to online dating websites. You can choose your site based on occupation, religious affiliation, even the age demographic or geographic location of the person you want to meet. At the same time, the website you choose will have different goals for its members; some sites are dedicated to helping people forge lasting relationships, while others are for the so-called “casual hookup.”

Avoid the “sexy” stranger

Regardless of whether you’re looking for a long-term relationship or just a one-time, weekend interaction, it might be best to steer clear of any profiles or message offers from people sending out unsolicited compromising photos of themselves. These accounts are quite likely to get your attention, all right, but it’s a common trick of the trade for scammers.

Watch the grammar

The bad grammar on scam emails and websites used to be laughable, but industry experts have discovered a couple of characteristics that are anything but funny. First, bad grammar is often an indication that the person sending the message is foreign, which is ordinarily fine. What isn’t fine is someone who claims to be a US soldier stationed in Kansas, but whose grammar clearly indicates he’s a non-native speaker. Here’s something to remember about grammar: scammers don’t want to waste their valuable time on people who are going to see right through them. By using awkward grammar, scammers are more likely to only catch gullible people instead of those who are savvy enough not to fall for it.

Beware of the sob story

It doesn’t matter what the tale of woe is—stranded in another country and can’t afford a flight, son has been arrested and they can’t pay his bail, sitting aboard a broken down deep sea fishing vessel and can’t get a new engine, whatever—if someone contacts you and eventually has a sad story, be very cautious about engaging. Remember, if this person really did need bail money for a child or money to get home, WHY would they reach out to a stranger they met online? Does this individual have no one else in his or her life whom he can call for help? Think of it this way: if there is genuinely no one closer to this person than a stranger on a dating website, that might be a sign that you shouldn’t invest in this relationship!

Watch out for the excuses

Scammers have gotten really good at coercing their victims, and they’re ready at all times with a playbook of excuses. Maybe he can’t email or chat regularly because he works on an oil rig (a very common line with dating scammers), or maybe she can’t talk on the phone because her parents are very strict and will disown her for having a relationship with someone who isn’t of her culture or religion. Whatever the excuse, they have one…so don’t continue to engage with someone who’s building a story for you to follow.

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