How to Spot a Dating Scam?

By: Elizabeth Marie |

Anyone whose been on a no strings attached dating site for more than a month has probably met more than a few con artists. It’s just the nature of the game: long and irrelevant emails that seem to have been copy-pasted from somewhere, poor grammar and spelling that reveal that the person is probably not  the UK native they said they were, and other tell-tale signs are all well known to long term denizens of the dating game.

Magnifying Glass
Image credit: Flickr

Those of us who are newer to online dating, however, may not know the ins and outs of telling a scam artist from a real person. This post aims to go into detail on the technique of spotting a dating scam when you see one. Aside from emails that announce their sender as a “Nigerian General”, what are the most salient characteristics of a dating scam artist?

Other than poor spelling and irrelevance, another tip is to look for vague responses. No scam artist will give you their personal details, and few bother trying to fake them. They may say what they supposedly look like or give some vague details about where they are from, but usually won’t be able to provide more than one pic or a phone number that doesn’t go straight to voicemail.

Another thing to look for is when your email is replied to automatically, within a few minutes of your first sending it. If this is the case, especially if the email is long, you may be corresponding with an auto-responder, set up to act like a real person in order to convince you to sign up for a dating site that they are promoting.

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However, even if all the above features are absent and you are definitely talking to a real person, there are a few more tactics that a dating conman can employ. Some of them make so much money out of scams that they are able to spend time actually writing original email responses. The classic arc of these emails ends up in them telling you a story about how they’ve been robbed or need hospital treatment or are going to lose their house and need you to wire them some money.

Another type of scam which is altogether easier to fall for involves you being sent the money and asked to forward on a portion of it to another account. Organised crime rings, mostly in Eastern Europe and Africa, often use unsuspecting westerners to help them engage in money laundering in this way. Money laundering is when money obtained illegally (usually stolen in some way) is funnelled through numerous channels and bank accounts in order to be used without the authorities suspecting.

Unfortunately for them, the authorities often do suspect and trace the route that the money has taken, right through your bank account. If this happens then you may be liable to repay all of the money and face legal action in various countries around the world. The moral of this sort of story is  to ignore messages from anyone asking to involve you in any sort of financial activity.

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If you’re going to respond then at least engage in the art of “scambaiting”, wasting as much of their time as possible whilst giving them absolutely no personal details or money. You can get lots of kudos on websites such as 419eater.com if you can persuade them to take a photo of them with an amusing sign. To view some of these signs, and read some dating tips on scambaiting go here.

Otherwise, simply try to avoid anything that seems suspicious and make sure that the emails you’re receiving are congruous with the profile that you’ve read. Never hand over financial details online unless through a secure and reputable website and you will be fine.