Ginger has a few friends who tried online dating and they had great luck. Some of her friends have even gotten married and had a few litters of puppies. So, though she was nervous, she went ahead and signed up for an account on www.findlovefur-ever.com. She diligently put together her profile and started looking for her other half. After two weeks, it seems as though she had found him when she was contacted by Maximus, a handsome Great Dane with a successful career, who even liked the same nerdy sci-fi films she did! He was a dream come true!

After two weeks of talking online and texting, Ginger decided she was comfortable meeting Maximus for their first date. However, when she showed up at the coffee shop, the Maximus she had seen on www.findlovefur-ever.com was nowhere to be found. Instead, a scrawny, filthy Chihuahua with breath so bad she could smell it across the room, was sitting where Maximus should have been. It was at this moment that Ginger realized that she had been catfished. Her dreamhound Maximus wasn’t real and her heart was broken as she slowly backed towards the exit hoping this imposter didn’t see her first.

 

While this story, which you can watch online, may give many of us a laugh, it is all too real. Some victims of catfishing may just end up with a broken heart, and some end up broke, period. Online dating sites create a wonderful opportunity to meet people and find the love of your life, but they also provide a platform for online scammers and identity thieves. This doesn’t mean that you should avoid online dating, but you should take steps to protect yourself.  Here are some tips to keep in mind while dating online:

  • Do not give out personal information: If someone asks for your address to send you a gift, tell them you can accept it if (and when) you meet in person. Information such as your address, phone number, Social Security number or place of employment can be used to steal your identity.
  • Be wary of people who seem to move too quickly: If someone you just started communicating with last week asks for your hand in marriage, it could be a red flag that this person has less than honorable intentions. You should spend quite a bit of time getting to know someone before you travel to see them or give them any personal information.
  • Don’t send money to anyone you meet online: You have been talking to John in Baltimore for months now and you agree it is time to meet in person. He says he will pay half of the ticket and you just need to mail him a check for the other half. Sounds fair, except now he has your checking account number, your routing number and whatever other personal information you have divulged to him in your courting period which he may be able to use to drain your bank account.

More than 40 million Americans are using an online dating service and more are signing up each day. With this amount of people active on dating sites, there is a good chance that if you are dating online that you will be targeted. If you think you may have been targeted in an online dating scam, or have given out your personal information, you can access the help of the Identity Theft Resource Center through our new mobile app.

Download the ITRC’s ID Theft Help mobile app available on the App Store for Apple devices or Google Play for Android devices to get helpful information on further protecting yourself. You can even talk directly with a trained victim advisor free of charge right from the app through the LiveChat feature. So go ahead and carry on in your search for love, but make sure right next to your dating app is your identity theft help backup, the ID Theft Help Mobile App from the ITRC.

This product was produced by Identity Theft Resource Center and supported by grant number 2014-XV-BX-K003, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this product are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.