Online dating scams: how to avoid being catfished!

Online dating is the new craze and the coronavirus pandemic boosted it. But this new mode of dating is not without its pitfalls. A cyber security expert has revealed that Australians have lost nearly $250 million this year due to online dating scams.

Online dating scams and money loss

Online dating may look the in-thing and fashionable but it has its own limitations and risks. A significant number of people have lost their money due to online dating scams. Melbourne-based Aaron Bugal told 6PR mornings host Gary Adshead that scamming has become common. And those scammers are now resorting to sophisticated devices and techniques in order to lure the gullible victims in. He said:

“The scammers take a lot of time to actually profile you using your online social footprint,”

Online dating scams
Online dating scams (Source: Pinterest)

The expert continued:

“So if you’ve got Facebook or Instagram, and if any of this is open to the public, they’ll take stock of your likes your dislikes what your interests are.

“And then when they do actually make that initial contact, they are going straight for the heartstrings to try and get that emotional connection, and get you emotionally involved in the situation, and that’s when they’ve got their hooks in.”

Rachel Elwell and her conman

In July this year, there were reports about Rachel Elwell, 50 who was conned of her life savings by her online date. It happened in January 2021 when she began to speak to a man named Bario on a dating app who said that he resides just 25 miles away from her home in West England. The man then told her that he was kidnapped abroad and claimed that the kidnappers were asking for ransom money. In 3 months, he managed to convince her about it and she also sent him 100000 pounds to save his life.

Also, read Sherrie Hewson, 71 quits dating app, Plenty of Fish after men harass her with rude pictures!

Online dating scams
Online dating scams (Source: Pinterest)

It was a scam racket with other members also in it such as his daughter and housekeeper. After the money was paid, Bario was supposed to arrive back at Heathrow Airport. But when he did not come, Rachel traveled to his house in Coventry and discovered that it was all a big lie. She said:

“Romance fraud is serious organized crime and they are sophisticated and very manipulative criminals.”

Rachel is now in debt after losing all her money on this online scam. Her banks: Santander and HSBC investigated and have reached the decision that she is not eligible for reimbursement of the lost money. Now, she is left with suicidal thoughts.

How to avoid being tricked by online scams

Cyber security expert, Chris Parker feels that online scammers look for financial stability and emotional vulnerability to hook the victims. Hence, it is important that one should not talk about big purchases or financial status to any other person: online or offline.

Chris also adds that do not show your weaknesses in public. Do not come across as desperate. It is always to show people around you that you are strong and happy even if you are not. Do not show others that you can be easily fooled.

Online dating scams
How to avoid online dating scams (Source: US embassy in Hungary)

The scammers do detailed research of their victims before they target and approach them. Hence, they talk about the same things that you like or dislike. They sound too good to be true. This should be a red flag for the victim.

Try to do a reverse image search on Google because often scammers lift the photos from other websites. Chris adds:

“While you are on Google, do a quick search for the person you’re talking to. Almost all of us have an online presence, from social media accounts to corporate profiles, or even that time we ran a 10k. If this person has zero digital footprints, they could well be an online refusenik, yes, but maybe it’s because they don’t exist.”

And when a request for cash or money comes from such a person, it should put you on the alert. They flatter you before they profess their love for you and then they come directly to the money point.

Make it a point to ask for a video call with this person for confirmation. If you fall into their trap, do not feel hurt or betrayed. Instead, immediately report to the police.