For many single people, the pandemic has been particularly hard. For those actively seeking a partner, being stuck at home alone without any access to social events or places to meet people, has led to an increase in using online dating platforms as a means to find love.
We’ve heard tales of prospective couples having dinner, playing board games and meeting each other’s families online. People have managed to meet up between lockdowns and some have even moved in with each other when another lockdown has hit. Yet, for all the romance success stories, there is another, darker side to online dating.
With the increased use of dating apps and online platforms, there has also been a rise in dating scammers – the unscrupulous catfish that target you for either amusement or with the aim to part you from your money. These lying bastards think nothing of stringing you along and breaking your heart so that they can get what they want.
Well, here at So Just Be, we don’t take too kindly to people hurting others for profit and amusement. Instead, we want you to go out into the online dating world prepared and ready to spot a rotter and stop a catfish in their tracks. We’ve compiled a handy checklist of things to watch out for when looking for romance online so that you can keep your heart and your bank account safe.
It’s Moving Too Fast
So you’ve met this fabulous person online; they’ve swiped right, you’ve swiped right and what d’ya know? It’s a love match! Things are going great, you message each other and spend hours talking to each other online. You feel like a teenager again!
Whilst you’re happy to take it slow and bask in the joys of a new connection, your beau is quick to start giving you pet names, professing how much they’re into you and telling you that they can’t live without you. Whilst this could be genuine (if a little immature), be careful.
They could be wanting to move quickly so that they can progress your relationship to the point where they can ask you for money or gifts. They may want to establish a personal connection with you to gain your trust so that they can gather your personal details and potentially steal your online identity.
Make sure that you set the pace in your online relationship so that you feel comfortable. If things are moving too fast for you then take a step back and reassess the situation. Tell them you want to slow down and see what their reaction is.
If their reaction is negative or potentially manipulative in any way, you need to cut it off. If you can’t judge their response then talk to a friend and tell them what’s happening and ask them for their opinion. Two heads are better than one!
Their Life is Pure Drama
When it comes to their life, does your online love seem to be the star of their own real-life drama? Do they have more tragedies than Dot from Eastenders? Watch out, there’s a good chance they may be making the whole thing up.
A popular strategy with online scammers is to make their targets feel sorry for them and have plenty of excuses to avoid meeting you in person. They may tell you they’ve had a tragedy in the family or they’ve lost their job or they have some urgent need to travel to a different country to help a sick loved one. Ultimately, it turns out that they just can’t afford to sort out the tragedy/find another job/travel to that country. Beware, they may be trying to get you to offer up some financial help.
Of course, if they’re not beset by tragedy but seem to have constant drama in their lives, they could be making it up for attention or to make themselves more interesting. We all like to embellish occasionally but telling outright lies to a prospective partner just isn’t on.
Make sure you get some facts from them, check them out and be wary whenever they’re vague or sketchy. If their story keeps changing, there’s a good chance that they may be lying or hiding something from you.
They Seem to Live Abroad
In the same vein as the tragedy/sympathy scam, many scammers will often use a ruse to make you believe that they’re somehow stuck abroad. They could be desperate to come to your country to meet you but just can’t afford a visa or they could claim to be abroad on business, have had everything stolen from them and no means to access their bank accounts.
Either way, they could end up asking you to send them money to get a visa or afford to get home. There will be promises to pay you back and pleas that they just want to get home to see you. Watch out, scam victims frequently report being asked to send money internationally only to never hear from their online love again.
Another reason they may be claiming to live far away from you is to avoid any chance of a meet up (more on this later). Long distance love can work out but that rarely happens when you’ve never even met them either online or face to face!
They Look Like a Model
Does your online love look too good to be true? Are their pictures looking a little too generic or posed? Do they seem to only send you the same pictures of themselves?
A common theme for catfish is to use a picture of an attractive model or actor as their profile picture. They will even go so far as to steal profile pictures from other people’s social media accounts. The aim is to hook you with a picture and charm you into wanting to believe that the person is real.
If you have suspicions and suspect that they may be too good to be true, try doing a reverse image search using Google image search. Save their picture to your desktop, access Google image search and upload. The search will bring up anywhere that image has been used on the internet and should even be able to identify whether it has been stolen from someone else’s account. Protect yourself and investigate.
They Avoid Video Calls, Pictures or Meet-Ups
One of the consistent themes in online dating scams and cat fishing is that they refuse to participate in any form of communication where you will actually see them. They claim they can’t video call you because their camera is broken or the software won’t work. But surely, they have more than one way to do that?
I don’t know a single person who wouldn’t immediately look into getting the camera on their phone fixed, potentially less so for a laptop but cameras on our devices are practically a necessity these days! If they can text, message or call you then a video chat seems like a fairly simple interaction to arrange. Unless they are not who they say that are.
Similarly, if you keep arranging meet-ups that they can never seem to manage to attend then that’s another major red flag! Firstly, if they can’t seem to find a time to meet you then you clearly can’t be a priority which is odd if they profess to be really into you.
Secondly, if they keep making excuses not to meet, there could well be something they are trying to hide. If they are not the same person as their profile picture then chances are they are going to expect a negative reaction from you or a chat with the authorities.
Are they stringing you along? Or are they scared to reveal their true selves? Don’t be afraid to confront them. If all you get are more excuses then kick that catfish to the kerb!
They Have No Internet Presence
In this digital age, it’s almost impossible not to leave some kind of footprint online. Whether it be a social media account, an article, a LinkedIn account, a footnote in an article, a mention on a friend’s social media account, a company website… the possibilities are endless!
If your online interest doesn’t seem to have any kind of internet presence or very limited social media interactions then I would be very suspicious. According to Norton.com, the average Facebook user has about 130 friends. If they only have a handful of friends then check their profiles too as catfish have been known to create an entire digital friend group to maintain one active profile. Look at their interactions and be aware of inconsistencies or anything that seems fishy.
Another tactic to be aware of with scammers and catfish is any attempt to lure you away too quickly from the dating app you’ve been using to interact with each other. If they seem in a rush to switch to text, WhatsApp or email, they may be attempting to get you away from any alerts or complaints that have been made by other users.
You’ll also no longer have the site admin to back you up if they say anything abusive or inappropriate. Plus they’ll have your personal contact details forever. If they are trying to isolate you too soon then take a step back and be wary.
They Ask You For Money
Major alarm bells should be ringing in your head if your online love interest starts asking you for cash. They may be in need of a loan because they can’t pay their rent, they may want the money to come and see you or they could need it to help them out of a tricky situation.
Firstly, if there isn’t anyone else in their life that they can ask for help apart from a person that they’ve just met online, then you really need to take a long, hard look at this person because that is just crazy! It also may say something quite worrying about them!
Secondly, why on earth would you give money to someone that you have never even met or seen? Don’t do it! No matter how charming they may seem! There’s a good chance they are trying to defraud you.
Never ever give money or any of your account details to anyone you meet online. In particular, if their requests are ongoing then report them to the police and the dating site admin immediately.
We hope that these safety tips will help you to protect yourself when dating online. Remember, not everyone is who they say they are but some people will be genuine. Just be careful with your heart as you look for your happily ever after.