The CR survey found that 35 percent of respondents who’ve tried online dating felt they had been grossly misled by someone’s online profile, and 12 percent said they’d been scammed.Experts say online daters are always wise to be skeptical regarding what someone they've met online, and not in the flesh, tells them.
In 2015, the last year for which data is available, consumers lost more than 0 million this way.
(It is estimated that only 15 percent of fraud victims report their losses to law enforcement, so the real numbers are probably higher.) As one result, fear of a horrible first date is just one of the things a would-be online dater has to worry about. “Most people think the victims are middle-aged women who can't get a date, but I have worked with men and women of all ages—doctors and lawyers, CEOs of companies, people from the entertainment industry—who you’d never think in a million years would fall for these scams but do,” says Barb Sluppick, who runs romancescams.org, a watchdog site and online support group.
To recognize and avoid romance scams, follow these tips.
Run a search: Copy the images your online correspondent has posted to his or her profile, then run them through a reverse-image search engine, such as Tin Eye or Google Images.
If they come up associated to a person with another name or who lives in a different city, you have good reason to suspect they were stolen from someone else’s profile.
And if you’ve been communicating with someone by email, check their address at a site such as romancescams.org, which compiles lists of email addresses belonging to known scammers.
The scammer might say that an immediate family member has a medical emergency and needs money for treatment, or that he has been wrongly arrested and needs help with bail money and legal support.
“There was one woman who got scammed for over a million dollars, her whole retirement nest egg,” says Farquhar.
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According to the Consumer Reports 2016 Online Dating Survey of more than 114,000 subscribers, among the respondents who were considering online dating but were hesitant, 46 percent said they were concerned about being scammed. “Typically the scammer builds trust by writing long letters over weeks or months and crafting a whole persona for their victims,” says Unit Chief David Farquhar from the Financial Crimes Section of the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) who specializes in cyber-related crimes.