Looking for love? Don't be fooled!
Each day, millions of people court the internet looking for more than the latest fashions, high-tech gadgets or home supplies. Instead, they are looking for love!
Dating websites serve nearly every age group, demographic and special interest group. There are sites for fitness buffs, seniors, farmers and the list goes on. According to Statista, the most popular site in the U.S. is Match.com, “with an online user awareness reach of 67 percent.”
It can be hard to decide how much to share while attempting to keep privacy and security in mind
Singles are relying on dating sites, social networks, email or chat rooms to find companionship. Online dating and social networking sites foster connections and communication, so they encourage users to provide a certain amount of personal information. When deciding how much information to reveal, users may not exercise the same caution as when meeting someone in person.
When a new love asks for money
Online dating sites strive to establish safe ‘surfing’ rules. They verify information and photos and monitor interaction and activity so users don’t inadvertently open themselves up, divulging too much. Users are urged initially to email or contact only through the app or website and to never give their location—instead meeting their potential match at a public place.
It’s the real world and people are eager to believe they have found their soul mate. But as the number of people using online dating services has increased, so too has the number of associated crimes.
Awareness and warning signs
In addition to personal safety, online dating users need to guard their finances. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says it receives thousands of reports each year about romance scammers who create fake online relationships. Cyber criminals target victims, gain their confidence and trick them into sending money. In 2016 some $220 million was lost to online dating site users who sent money to their new loves. The FTC recently released this article educating users about scams targeting online daters.
Warning signs, says the FTC, are those who profess their love early in the relationship and claim to need money for an emergency or travel. They may say they plan to visit, but can’t at this time or don’t have necessary resources. It advises consumers to never wire money, send cash or gift cards and to report any such experience immediate to the appropriate authorities.
It’s not just online dating sites where malicious activity may occur. It can be someone proclaiming to be from the IRS (which will never call consumers); or even an acquaintance who warms up to you quickly at a local event or other gathering.
Being safe and secure is all about being aware of the current conditions and how to react.
We encourage consumers to be vigilant and seek outside assistance when something doesn’t seem right. Intuition and gut instincts may be the first indicator. If you think you have been a victim of an online dating scam, report your experience to the online dating site, the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
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