I’m not going to sugar coat it; you should be concerned about online dating scams. You should be worried about getting scammed on mail order bride sites, regular dating sites, and social media sites.
That is a fact.
According to the Federal Trade Commission Americans lost more than $143 million to romance scammers in 2018. Dating scams are a growing problem and there is not indication it is going to get better anytime soon.
The FTC suggests three rules to avoid being scammed:
- Never send money or gifts to a sweetheart you haven’t met in person.
- Talk to someone you trust about this new love interest. In the excitement about what feels like a new relationship, we can be blinded to things that don’t add up. Pay attention if your friends or family are concerned.
- Take it slowly. Ask questions and look for inconsistent answers. Try a reverse-image search of the profile pictures. If they’re associated with another name or with details that don’t match up, it’s a scam.
OK, somewhere a government bureaucrat is doing their best, but those points are not particularly helpful. Everyone reading this article almost certainly knew these rules – they are obvious.
So, beyond the most basic government-issued information what can you do to protect yourself from scams romance scams?
In theory it is pretty simple: follow the same dating rules in the digital world that you would in the real world. In practice, if you follow the rules below you will generally be OK.
Seven Real World Dating Rules For Online Dating
Dating is dating in the real world and in the digital world.
Real World: You can tell a lot by how someone dresses when you meet them.
Online World: Read their dating profile closely. Serious daters tend to write long profiles and carefully select their photos.
Real World: A positive attitude is always attractive.
Online World: How do these people feel about the economy and their future right up front? Most scammers are not happy people and they also want you to feel sorry for them so they begin to plant the seeds of a sob story right away.
Real World: Everyone loves an honest compliment.
Online World: Did the compliment come too fast or seem unrelated to who you really are? Everyone loves a compliment and romance scammers tend to pour them on in buckets from the beginning.
Real World: Too much makeup usually means someone is nervous or trying to hide their flaws
Online World: Are they going overboard on the filters? Too many filters can make anyone look like a model. Do all the photos look like the same person?
Real World: Age is more than just a number.
Online World: How old is their dating profile? Lonely hearts scammers tend to keep profiles for a long time because they make a lot of contacts and some of these people come back years later. Usually, you can tell roughly how old the profile is by looking at the code or number for the profile.
Real World: People who make the first move have to explain more.
Digital World: If someone contacts you first, ask them why they contacted you. Does their answer sound real? Is it grounded in reality?
Real World: Everyone is on attentive on a date.
Digital World: The internet is instant. If someone is chatting with you and they are really into the messages will come fast and furious, because they are interested in you. If they are not attentive ditch them.
Real World: Liars lie and if you catch them in a lie you should end it.
Digital World: Liars lie and if you catch them in a lie you should end it. Ask a lot of questions right away like the name of the town they were born in, where they grew up, where they went to high school, their parents’ and siblings’ names. Write them down. If they ever get these little things wrong months or even years later they are a liar.
Real World: The sort of neighborhood you meet someone in says a lot about them and you.
Online World: The same thing is true online. Did you meet them in a nice bright, well-policed dating site or in some back alley chat room?
Real World: If you give money to anyone you just met you consider them a panhandler and do not expect to get the money back or really make a true friend.
Online World: The same thing is true online. Don’t send money, but if you do consider it lost forever. But don’t send money.
Think About the Concept of Free
So, ponder these online dating rules, but also spend a few minutes to think about the idea of free stuff. Because many scams start with the concept of getting something for free or at some sort of a super deal.
One of the most common questions we get is, “Are there any free mail order bride sites?”
This is one of those questions that generally gives the staff here headaches. So, to save on our Advil bill this article is going to attempt to answer that question.
First, it is totally understandable why people constantly ask about free international dating sites.
Free is one of the most powerful words in the English language.
Everyone loves free stuff! But how many things in life are really free?
Not many and most of those things have some sort of a hidden cost. The hidden cost of free online dating sites is scammers.
Scammers Love Free Dating Sites
Scammers absolutely love free dating sites in every niche imaginable. Here is why, because the scammer does not have to actually be black, white, Jewish, Christian, or Russian.
He, and it is often a HE, just grabs an attractive photo somewhere online and starts writing. Because since they are not actually intending to meet the person they are writing.
The internet is global and many of them are based in Africa. In fact, scamming is a major industry in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa.
They are called “café boys” and this is how they make their living.
The above photo is out of an Australian Broadcasting Channel story on the African internet dating scam industry. It is a must-read if you are really concerned about not being scammed.
Here is how the article describes these professional romance scammers:
The FBI reports formidable crime organizations which originated in Nigeria have spread to more than 80 countries and are making billions of dollars a year from scams alone.
According to EOCO’s Abu Issah, the cafe boys are ready prey for the global syndicates which have taken hold in Ghana. “The big guys make millions of dollars,” he said.
We have Nigerian nationals and other West African nationals who come here — and definitely they have their Ghanaian collaborators — and they share ideas, making it so sophisticated even to track down.
In December 2018 the U.S. Justice Department indicted seven Nigerian nationals for a scam that took in over $1.5 million dollars.
The press release from United States Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Georgia, explained that…
The fake paramours often claimed to be working overseas and in need of money to travel back to the United States or to complete business deals abroad. Once the conspirators received money from targeted users, the conspirators quickly withdrew the funds and dispersed them into other accounts, domestically and abroad.
So, the vast majority of Americans who are scammed are scammed by foreigners pretending to be Americans, not by Russians actually playing Russians.
We live in a very unusual moment in the history of the world.
The problem is that the internet has made it incredibly easy for everyone to communicate with almost everyone else on the planet, but the economic and social differences around the world are still absolutely gigantic.
These African café boys are mostly trying to simply make enough to eat. Yes, they often end up having to split the money with much more sophisticated operators, but the poverty is incredible in Africa.
And if you are really, really poor what is the easiest sort of dating site to join?
Yes, a free dating site!
The biggest problem with free dating sites is that they are free. They make their revenue from running ads on their site.
They do not really care about your success or failure in love. What they really care about is your eyeballs. They need views to earn revenue.
They probably prefer not to have a site full of Nigerian dating scammers, but the cost of even slowing them a little like the big body is simply prohibitive.
So, if you use free dating sites you are far more at risk for scammers, but they also have other problems.
Free dating apps tend to have low-quality profiles, clunky interfaces, and weak anti-hacker protection.
And almost none of them are really free anymore. PlentyOfFish revolutionized free online dating, but since it was bought by the Match Group PlentyOF spends a huge amount of effort getting you to upgrade to some sort of premium service.
Essentially, you get what you pay for, but just how big of an improvement is that?
Policing Online Scammers
So, free dating sites are a mess. But just how much better are the big dating sites?
Well, in fairness it is tough for even the biggest most profitable sites to spot scammers – well, sophisticated scammers. But they try.
They have a slew of fancy algorithms and cookies. They read letters to spot people doing cut and paste jobs. They catch the low hanging fruit, but they have a really difficult time with the sophisticate scammers that know all of the tricks and have the resources to catch them.
And, you have to remember that nearly all of the major American dating sites are owned by Match Group.
Who is Match Group you are probably saying?
Well, besides Match.com, their original site, in recent years they have also bought PlentyOfFish, OKCupid, Chemistry.com, and Tinder. And a slew of sites I have never even heard of like LDSPlanet.com (a dating site for Mormons) HowAboutWe, BlackPeopleMeet.com, and OurTime (senior citizens.)
And even this list is incomplete.
Match Group apparently controls about one-third of the online dating market in the United States, somewhere between forty-five and fifty sites including some international dating sites.
And it might even be a stock worth buying Match Group stock if you do that sort of thing according to this analysis of their revenue growth potential. (Dear FTC Bureaucrat: We do not own any Match Group stock, but we would love for them to buy us one day soon. This is more wishful thinking than conflict of interest, thanks.)
So owning all of these sites give the Match Group the unrivaled ability to spot scammers and they constantly delete accounts and ban individuals from their sites. That stops a few people, but it barely slows down the sophisticated scammers.
Do a search for: scam “Match.com” and even if you only filter your results for only the last year you will see that Match Group is awash in scammers. And remember, these people are spending literally tens of millions of dollars a year to stop fraud, because they know it hurts the entire industry and they are a lot of the industry.
Oh, and there is one final problem, a very big problem. The last thousand words of brilliant prose was discussing scammers on free dating sites, but actually, ALL of the cases mentioned occurred on general-purpose paid dating sites.
Because scammers have almost driven free dating sites to complete extinction.
Better Than Free Dating Sites
It is perfectly understandable why guys come here looking for free mail order brides.
We get a lot of traffic from countries where guys do not make a lot of money and they are desperate to get a chance to meet some of the beautiful women we showcase here.
But if you are a normal guy from the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom who is seriously looking for a foreign woman the best thing that you could do is probably sign up with A Foreign Affair and take one of their tours.
If you are not flat broke that is a better approach than trying to find a free dating site.
AFA take their clients’ seriously and they are based in the United States. That means if you want to sue them you can, but more importantly, they are responsible for tens of thousands of successful marriages.
As I said, you get what you pay for.