Everyone would like to make a love connection on Valentine’s Day, and online dating sites can be a great way to meet someone. Unfortunately, online dating services and social communities are prime targets for identity thieves who know how to prey upon the vulnerabilities of those seeking relationships.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and online identity theft advocacy organizations are warning users of online dating sites to beware of “sweetheart scammers” who swindle money or bank account information from online daters.
Sweetheart scammers usually begin with a face profile designed to match a certain a person with three common characteristics: employed, affluent and trusting. The profile is designed to seem perfect in every way, even down to the same likes and dislikes as the target. Once the scammer has established trust with the target they unveil a money problem. Typical scenarios include requesting funds for travel to meet the target or to help a sick relative.
The scammers know how to prey on the vulnerabilities of people seeking relationships. Taking the time and effort to safeguard personal information and to look for warning signs can make all the difference in protecting yourself.
Results from a past survey by Experian’s ProtectMyID.com showed that a high percentage of individuals participating in online dating fail to properly scrutinize potential matches prior to engaging in communication. Many compound this issue by divulging too much personal information at a very early stage. From birth dates and addresses to phone numbers and even bank account details, the flow of information is alarmingly high in the online dating world.
ProtectMyID reminds people that they can take precautionary steps and offers these tips to spot a scam before romance fades into financial and identity fraud:
- Keep the details close to the heart. Profiles should tease, not disclose everything. Don’t provide personally identifiable information to a prospective dating match until there is an established level of familiarity and trust. This includes your hometown, home addresses, work specifics, phone numbers, educational background and information about children via profiles and through photo identification.
- Cupid isn’t always right. Don’t assume that a prospective dating match always will be truthful. Ask a person to tell you about himself or herself; then you can conduct a little background work on websites and see if conflicting information exists. Also, be wary of any requests for financial loans or assistance of any kind.
- Create the perfect password. For online dating profiles, do not use passwords that incorporate publicly known information.
Always remember, you should make financial decisions with your head, and not your heart.
Thanks for reading.
Senior Vice President
Experian Consumer Services