“In this world” the Benjamin Franklin quote goes, “nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Mr. Franklin lived over 200 years ago, well before the days of online scammers or even the internet. If he were alive today, he would likely add ‘scammed online’ to the list!
Facts are: If you are alive today and have a computer, use dating sites, Craigslist, or any social media platforms, the chances are high (almost 100%) that you’ve had many fake friend requests or messages, even if you didn’t realize it at the time. Nowadays, scams are even texted to cell phones.
The risks of being scammed online are both financial and emotional. We all feel empathy for an elderly person tricked out of cash, by a scammer who took them for a financial ride. We also feel empathy for a hopeful dater who is tricked by a Catfish who isn’t who they claim to be.
When the person tricked is ourselves, the ramifications feel even worse. We might experience anger, guilt, shame, sadness, frustration, and many other emotions. As with most things, education and awareness are key. Scammers thrive off the ignorance and trust of others. This isn’t to say that we ought not to be trusted, but that simple boundaries and awareness will prevent us from the dark side of the internet.
What are the top signs you’re getting scammed online?
The top things to look for are as follows!
1. Grammar: Read a portion of the profile, text message, or email you’re viewing. How does it SOUND when read out loud. Does it sound like a U.S. citizen wrote it or even someone who has moved here from another country? Let’s face it, each country has its own vernacular and people pick it up pretty fast. Someone who is living far away or out of the country (without disclosing so) will have subtle differences in how they write. Have a friend read through what you receive or do your research online with copy/ paste.
2. Taking It Off Record: Maybe they want you to send an instant message immediately, even though you have yet to meet face to face. Though this request could be harmless, it’s better to share this after you’ve figured out if you even like the person. Be alert and don’t give out your personal email address to a stranger, especially if it contains your full name or could link you to many other sites or details, should they search it out. Having and keeping track of more than one email address may be a pain, but it’s time well spent. Create a separate email address for online connections, separate from your real or work life.
3. Be “that guy” (or girl): Ask questions. Ask follow-up questions. Ask questions about their answers. If they claim to live far away in another state (in which case, why are you even investing the time?), reference local information about where they live and see how they respond. If they habitually ignore your questions, grow suspicious. If answers don’t match up, don’t go to them to talk their way out of it. Rather, get out and away while you can… and remember there are other fish in the sea!
4. No One Normal Loves You After A Few Weeks Of Online Correspondence: If the person you’re interacting with online is getting far too serious, before you’ve even met or when you barely know them, have a red flag. In fact, have ten red flags, hold them high, and wave them! Let us repeat it again- no one psychologically healthy is going to say they love you or want to marry you when you haven’t even met yet. Devotions of affection can feel good and be gratifying, but that’s more a product of our needs and who we are. It does not validate the intentions of the person saying it. If it’s too good (or happening too fast) to be true, it probably is!
5. Naked Photos:
There’s no other way to say it. It happens. Most adults have ‘sexted’ in their lifetime and the flirty nature of dating sites can make flirtation and seduction via messaging or text happen fast. However, same flags as above, if you send someone you haven’t met or don’t know well suggestive or nude photos, expect that those photos might not be used how you expect. Worst case the photos could even end up online, and/ or might even be going to someone other than your intended recipient. Before you send a photo to that attractive man or woman your age in New York, decide if you want your photos going to an 80-year-old man in Oklahoma.
6. Photo, Word, Check!: Social Catfish can help weed out the spammers and scammers from the real, honest to goodness, people you want to meet. If you count up all the hours you invest in an online relationship (the time spent writing, reading… but also the time spent intriguing or fantasizing about the person), then it’s better to be safe than sorry and verify someone’s identity and details sooner than later, especially when it’s right after a divorce. Social Catfish makes that easy, with our affordable searches, which will yield better results than trying to use Google on your own.
7. Money, Honey: Your money is yours. You work for it, earn it, save it, donate it, blow it on the newest Android or iPhone (who are we to judge). Whatever you do with it, you deserve your money to be handled the way you want. Do not, EVER, ever, ever loan money to a stranger online. Anyone with a charity will have ways to verify that charity’s authenticity online. If someone you don’t know well is claiming they are stuck in another country or want money wired due to a health challenge, look for verification or count any money you give as money you will likely never see again!
As always, it’s a big world out there… let your internet time be safe and fun! Don’t get scammed online!