In our search for the elusive and perhaps nonexistent Prince Charming, we’ve all had our share of kissing frogs. And many of us have also met our share of fraudsters, too, especially in the world of online dating.

On one dating site, a friend and I met a serial scam artist. You’d think this guy would realize that the women he’s attempting to prey might know each other. The poor fool didn’t. This guy was no catch. He used a deceptive photo to camouflage his looks and weaved a tale that could have earned him a spot on The New York Times Fiction Bestseller List.

How to Protect Yourself From the Dangers of Online DatingThank goodness we girls love to compare notes. Soon enough, we realized we were talking to the same guy and had fun catching him in his lies. Brazen Women banding together! Soon I heard from a friend whose friend was buying into his scam. Another woman wasn’t so lucky. She got caught up: he promised to buy her a house so she’d never have to work again. Later, we learned she quit her job, advanced him money and her life became momentarily derailed because of his web of deceit. On another site, there was a man who described himself as a successful businessman. A low cost online background check revealed he was a convicted felon and gambler. The list goes on.

The fact is, you just never know someone, even when you think you do. It’s not our fault, really. Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, we all want to believe in love and are searching for that spark and connection with the soulmate we’ve yet to meet.

Disclaimer: I am a public relations professional. I’ve been divorced for nine years and have had my share of dating nightmares, heartbreaks and fleeting success. When I received the opportunity to handle PR for a new dating app called Jaumo, I did my due diligence before agreeing. The app had just hit an impressive 20 million users in 180 countries. In the process of my research, I determined that their Anti-Fraud Detection System could make them one of the best dating apps that many North American love seekers had never heard of.

Need some online dating safety tips and information on spotting scammers and fraudsters? Don’t we all.

When you’re dating online, here are some tips to keep in mind:

How do we insulate ourselves from the dangers of online and app dating?

Spotting Fakes

A fake is a profile with phony data. Some people only make a few false statements in their profile. Others upload stolen photos or even show up as a completely different person.

Spotting Scammers

Scammers are marriage swindlers who make commitments or promises of love with the intention of getting money. They often come from abroad. A common variant is to ask for money for a plane flight or a sudden emergency.

Spammers

Try to lure people to other websites or apps. They promise closer contact, more pictures, an adult webcam session, etc. with the aim of following an allegedly better or safer offer.

Typical Scammer Profiles

Many scammers appear as soldiers, engineers, oil contractors, architects or doctors. They display stolen photos mostly as an attractive white person. Common male names are John, Richard, Robert or Thomas.

Take Off the Rose-Coloured Glasses

Exuberant love stories? Photos showing an attractive man with a story sounding too beautiful to be true? Things moving very quickly? First message arriving before you’ve uploaded a photo? Be suspicious.

Strange Language in Conversations

Examples of language and wording frequently used by scammers:

I am…

  • a God fearing man
  • looking for an honest woman
  • looking for a serious woman
  • a sincere man
  • so much blessed to have you in my life

Excuses For Not Meeting

Does “Romeo” always find new reasons why he can’t meet or always canceling dates with short notice? Be suspicious.

How To Protect Yourself

Dating Safety Tips

  • Stay anonymous as long as possible and don’t be pushed to where you don’t feel comfortable. Don’t share information that you’d rather keep private.
  • Don’t give out phone numbers or contact information (Skype, e-mail or home address, workplace) to someone you don’t know. Communicate within the app.
  • Never send money. Especially not to someone you’ve recently met.
  • Unsure? Report the profile.

Can I Still Trust?

Not every request is from a fraudster. Too much mistrust can prevent you from falling in love, and pessimistic people usually look less attractive.

Personal Information

Never give personal information. This includes passwords, home address, workplace, phone number, instant messenger details, credit card numbers, bank information, passport, etc.

Profile

Do not share identifying info in your profile like your full name or workplace. Don’t upload photos with your children.

Chats

Use caution and trust your instincts. Don’t give your life story the first time you chat. Use block functions if you don’t want to have future contact. Report all suspicious behaviour.

Finance

Requests for money should be a red flag. There’s no reason for anyone to ask you for money or your financial information, whatever emergency or sad story they give. Stop all contact immediately and report the profile.

First Date

  • Take your time before dating offline. Get to know the person better first.
  • Meet in a public place. When you meet in a bar or a restaurant, there are enough witnesses if something goes wrong. Never meet someone at home on the first date or invite him home until you know him better.
  • Arrange your own transportation to and from the meeting place.
  • Tell a friend or family member about your date including details about where you’re meeting, whom the person you’re meeting is and how long you want to stay. Provide information about the individual like a name and phone number. Take your fully charged mobile and arrange a check-up phone call or text with your friend.
  • Stay in control. Stay sober. Don’t drink too much and keep your drink and all your belongings nearby at all times.
  • Think about running a low cost online background check before you meet. It’s a small price to pay to prevent potential deceit and heartache.

Adrienne Lenhoff is owner of Shazaaam! Public Relations and Marketing, a pop culture vulture, mom, dog owner, hopeless romantic and music fanatic. She DVR’s her guilty pleasure TV shows, watches them while on the treadmill, is finally learning how to whistle, admittedly can’t carry a tune and listens to music really loud in her car when she’s alone.

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