Since Tinder came onto the market in 2012, online dating has been growing in popularity. People all over the world were delighted with the ability to access access millions of attractive potential mates with just few swipes of a finger. In fact, it's not longer a strange thing for a serious couple to have met online. Some studies have even shown that use of online dating sites among young adults (ages 18-24) nearly tripled from 2013 to 2016, rising from 10 percent to 27 percent. However, online dating is also filled with potential for frauds. Just last week, an OCBC employee was rewarded for having prevented an online dating scam that could've cost someone S$17,000.
These internet scams aren't unique to Singapore or to online dating. Loneliness, lust and greed are just few examples of the most basic human instincts and vulnerabilities that are exploited by online scammers and catfishers. These criminals are extremely adept at playing into an online dater’s vulnerability and eventually conning them out of their money. To help you avoid becoming a victim of these frauds, here are some tips you can use to spot scammers as soon as you encounter one.
Are online dating scams really that common?
Although there are no official statistics around how common online dating scams really are, it's serious enough for the FBI to issue an official warning against it. Some have estimated that as much as 15% of Tinder profiles are fake bots, most of which are designed to run dating scams. And some of these scams can be quite serious. In 2016, a man in the US allegedly convinced his online matches to invest over $2.3 million to his "medical company." If they are so common and serious, how could you spot and avoid them?
How do you spot a scammer?
In most cases, scams work through automated messages via bots. The easiest way to avoid being scammed, therefore, is to ignore bots like a plague. Bots usually have many easy-to-spot, dead giveaways, some of which we list below. In most cases, if their profiles or what they say are too good to be true, it doesn't hurt to do a quick search on Facebook and on Google to see if they are real human beings.
Biggest Signs of Online Dating Scam Bots
- They respond super quickly
- They want to move the conversation offline (off Tinder) quickly to other "chatting" services
- They ask you for money or financial information
- They are hundreds of miles away (visible on Tinder)
- They claim to love you right away
- They ask for your contact information quickly
- They often respond in disconnected manner, repeat the same things, or dodge answering your questions
There are more intricate cases of scams that are actually conducted by real people. However, there's also a way to spot these quickly. As a general rule, you should stay away from people who ask you personal questions about your identity or finances; it's also a warning sign if your match brings up a "business proposition" of any sort. We hope that you never find yourself in a situation where you've already been "hooked" by a scammer and engaged in these conversations.
If you do so, however, you should always try to at least resist and back out of whatever you are doing several times. Although scammers can be patient with you while you are falling into their trap, they are also known to grow impatient quickly once you start to resist or hesitate after they've spent a lot of time with you. After all, they are in the business of "volume game" and are incentivized to contact as many people as possible; if they spend an hour or two on you and you decide to back out, they are likely to get enraged. If they sound even a bit agitated, angry or impatient, you should know immediately that you are talking to a scammer.
Things that are worthwhile take time to develop
When we are pondering how to find and develop a meaningful relationship, it's important to stop and remember that things that are worthwhile usually take time to develop. Romance is built on understanding each other's personalities, dreams, insecurities, strengths, weaknesses and many other personal matters that are not immediately shared. It's unreasonable to believe that someone will just fall in love with you without having even met you, and then is also deserving of your money just because they asked.
Investing is the same. Making great investments take time and effort on your part to study and evaluate the opportunities thoroughly. Just because some "attractive" stranger online presents a "get rich quick" or "guaranteed" investment opportunity, it doesn't mean it's true.
When a person deeply desires something like money, love or relationship, it's easy for him to believe whatever he wants to hear. It can be addicting to hear that someone with an attractive photo thinks you are gorgeous, or that you can double your money overnight, guaranteed. When you hear such things, however, remember that these immediate satisfactions are not real, and that they will hurt you materially quite soon if you trust them.