14 Warning Signs Someone Is Scamming You Online

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Some people have great success with online dating, yet there are hazards you must know so your quest for love doesn't cost you emotionally, mentally and monetarily.

One of the biggest concerns of online dating is falling for a catfish, or a person who misrepresents who they are online. This type of scammer has made a lucrative business in catfishing people on dating sites and apps to steal your money.

Some daters are so desperate to find love they ignore red flags and warning signs of scammers and catfishers in a hope of a possibility of love. But sometimes, it's just plain hard to see the warning signs of a romance scam. After all, scammers wouldn't scam if they were never successful.

Knowing the how to tell if someone is scamming you online will save you time, money, and heartache.

How do you know if you're talking to an online scammer?

A good rule of thumb: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is and they could be scamming you. Other red flags include strange requests, refusing to meet up in person, and sharing personal information that just doesn't check out.

In the case of a love scammer, they will fake an immediate connection with you, ask for large sums of money, or say they are planning to visit but at the last minute cancel due to an "emergency."

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How to Tell if Someone is Scamming You Online

1. Their profile is vague.

Start with what their profile states on the dating site. Scammers often are not specific in what they are looking for in a mate. Thus, more people will respond and fit their requirements.

When making contact with you, usually scammers start by complimenting you on your looks. Wouldn't you rather someone compliment you on your accomplishments or what your goals are?

2. They say they love you, sight unseen.

"I love you" is a statement everyone wishes to hear, but how do you know if it's real? Scammers tell you they love you before they have ever met you in real life.

Think about it: How do you know if there's real charisma there? Some people can sound great on the phone, but when you meet them there's nothing there; or, physically they just don't meet your standards. How can someone honestly love you before having met you in person?

3. It's too much, too fast.

The other part of the "I love you" scam is when he says something like, "Something in me shifted, and I love you," or, "I think I have found my soulmate."

Again, they haven't even met you, and there hasn't been enough time to know you well enough to truly love you in the way you wish to be loved. How can someone want to spend the rest of their life with you when they've known you less than a month?

4. They want to take the conversation to an encrypted messaging system.

There's a reason scammers wish for you to contact them directly via private email and not use messaging available through the dating site.

You're using a dating site to protect your privacy and help you avoid scammers. Don't fall for whatever their reason is to write to them directly before meeting them in person.

5. They avoid answering questions.

"How tall are you?" "What do you do for a living?" — it's almost as if their mail is sent automatically, like you're on their list and this is the next standard email to send.

6. They keep playing phone games.

First off, I don't recommend calling an online suitor without having met them first. But if you do, your phone identifies the calling number, and you return the calls but the number is rarely answered or almost always goes to voicemail, you may be dealing with a scammer.

Remember, there are a number of services where you can purchase a phone number with almost any prefix.

Also, if they're supposedly overseas on a trip, and he gives you his foreign number and says call any time, it's more likely his real number. Why? He's more than willing for you to get the long-distance bill, versus him calling you.

7. They can never seem to meet.

Another indication of a scam is when there's a distance between where you both live. When you say you'll be in the area and would like to get together, they can't meet with you.

This is a great test: ask to meet soon after the introduction happens online. If there are continual excuses, you know this person doesn't really live where they say they do, and/or they aren't truly interested in you.

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8. They flaunt their income.

Most people who earn a decent living wish to be wanted for who they are, not for their income. Yet, scammers will often indicate they make more than $150,000 a year in an attempt to set up the person who wants to know them for their income, and not for themselves.

This way, when they say they''ve gotten into a jam and request money, the unsuspecting person thinks the investment or loan will actually get reimbursed.

9. They want to know how much you make.

Shortly after the introduction, the person asks about your financials. In other words, they really want to find out if you're worth their time to scam, as you have financial resources to share.

Think about your friendships — do they ask you about your financials? Not many do, especially when you haven't known each other for very long.

10. Their photos seem fake or too good to be true.

Ask them to send you pictures. When the exact same pictures show up that are on the Internet, it's an indication the pictures may not really be of them, or why wouldn't they send a different set of pictures?

Do a Google Image search to see if their photo shows up on stock photo sites or catalogs. Notice the background in the pictures posted online. Are they indicating that they are wealthy? Does it show a big house, a new boat, or something else that yells wealth?

Again, people who have real wealth do not typically advertise it. So, when a picture flagrantly indicates wealth, one needs to consider whether it's real.

Did the person go to a boat dock and simply stand in front of a great looking boat and have his picture taken? Did they ask a realtor to show them an expensive house and then have their picture taken at the house? Be suspicious of pictures taken outdoors.

11. They need to 'borrow' money from you.

It's easy for a scam to be set up, even by someone who is not currently in the United States. One of the more popular scams is to pretend to be a resident who has either recently moved to the States in the last two years, or who is in the process of moving here.

Here's how it goes: They get called back to their home country to do a lucrative job with either really important people or for a really good commission or a big paycheck. Once overseas, something horrible happens that leaves them broke or close to broke — their money got stolen from the hotel, the taxi driver stole it, the airlines forced them to check their luggage and their money was in it.

Whatever the reason, a smart person, or one who travels, knows better than to let it occur.

They asks you for a temporary loan. Think about this. Why you? Don't they have any friends or family who could help out if the situation was true? How much money is being requested? Is the amount of money being requested realistic for the situation described?

Be aware, the person may ask you to send money via DHL, or another global service, to a name other than their own. This is a huge red flag, as they must show ID to collect the money, so their "friend's" name is more likely their real name.

Either way, do you really want to get involved with this person? Ask yourself: how desperate are you for a relationship? Scammers count on that desperation.

13. They try to guilt-trip you.

Most people are basically good people and want to help. So, if you start to get suspicious and ask if this is a scam, he will most often get mad and attempt to make you feel guilty.

Then, he must create a new heartfelt situation that requires you to send money.

14. They use overly lovely speech.

They write letters filled with love, as if the letters were written right out of a romantic novel. Listen to how often flattery is used. They just met you, so how can they give honest flattery?

Here are some additional commonalties among scammers

Remember, they have a plethora of these, but not necessarily all of these traits:

  • Their name consists of two first names.
  • They don't call often, as they would rather write.
  • The facts they give you don't check out. For example, they're not on the alumni list of the college they say they attended.
  • They must travel overseas shortly after meeting you.
  • They make unrealistic promises.

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How to Protect Yourself if You Think You're Being Scammed

1. Don't share personal information.

If you have yet to exchange social media handles, email addresses, last names, or credit card information, don't share this information with the potential scammer. Though the scammer may already know your first name, age, and city, if you've caught them before revealing anything else, you'll be better off.

2. Report the suspected scammer on the dating app or site.

If the catfish in question hasn't already mysteriously disappeared from the dating app or website where you first met, report their profile as soon as possible. If there's an option to leave comments, do so and explain your situation. This will help protect other online daters from being targeted in the future.

3. Block and report them on social media.

If you suspect they have shared fake accounts with you on social media, block and report those profiles, too. Each social media site has different policies regarding fake accounts, but most give you the option to report them. Unfortunately, there's no guarantee that the profiles will be banned.

4. Inform anyone who may have had their photos stolen.

It can be fairly easy to trace a catfish's photos back to someone else using reverse image search. If you believe your scammer has been impersonating someone else, it may be helpful to tell that person, "Hey, your photos are being used on this dating app under the name so-and-so."

5. Get the police involved if necessary.

While not every catfish situation warrants police involvement, there are some cases where it's a good idea to inform the cops. Just make sure you have some way to access their social accounts, email address, or phone number as evidence. If you have sent the scammer money, call the police for instructions for next steps. You can also file a general report on the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Can you go to jail for someone scamming you?

Unless you become an unwitting accomplice in a crime by sending a wire transfer used for illegal purposes, it's unlikely that simply being a victim of catfishing will land you in jail.

Be smart about online dating.

If the new person cannot meet you in person within the first two to three weeks of chatting or writing online, he isn't the person for you. If he's moving too fast declaring his love, he's not the person for you. If he falls in love with you before actually meeting you, he's not for you.

Constantly ask yourself, how desperate are you? The more desperate to find someone, the easier it is for you to become a pawn in the scammer's game.

There are practical steps you can take to ensure the safety of yourself and others, but also note that your emotional safety is important, too.

If you've been the victim of a catfish, don't beat yourself up for falling for the scam. Talk the situation through with a trusted, non-judgmental friend or therapist. And don't give up on love. Safe, real romance exists and is possible for you.

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Sharon Lynn Wyeth is an author who specializes in communication issues, couples issues, empowering women. She's the creator of Neimology Science, the study of the placement of the letters in a name.