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 Online Dating Scams: Forewarned is Forearmed 
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Post Online Dating Scams: Forewarned is Forearmed
Online Dating Scams: Forewarned is Forearmed
by: Valerie Catcheside

We certainly don't want to put you off registering with an online dating agency as they generally provide a useful and worthwhile service. Unfortunately, wherever there is honest business activity there will also be those who try to take advantage of you. The best way of avoiding these scams is to know about them, so we've summarised the main dating scams below.

Fake Services

There have been plenty of fake online dating services out there. Often these services are full of photographs of non-existent members and they aim to entice you into taking out a subscription using what are basically computer generated messages. Obviously these services don't last very long so the easiest way to avoid them is to use a well established service that's been around for a while.

Remember: If the photo looks like a clipping from a magazine shoot then it probably was.

Escort Services

If you look for a dating service using search engines then you may come across one of the many escort services dressed up as a dating site. These are often international sites with foreign ladies looking for American or European men. These sites are actually selling sex so they are mainly aimed at men. The last one we visited apparently offered Russian girls who were looking for American penpals or husbands. Very little digging was needed before we were being offered all inclusive VIP trips to Moscow where we would be 'entertained' by the 'lonely' girls we had been corresponding with.

Remember: If you are being offered sex you will probably be expected to pay for it (and don't count on taking delivery!)

Free Services

So called 'free' dating services have also appeared. Many are only free in the sense that they have free registration but charge for actually using the service. This is fine in itself but a few advertise themselves in a way that suggests they are completely free of any charges. We are not keen on this but it's more a dodgy bit of marketing than an outright attempt to steal from you.

These are also a few services that are genuinely free of direct charges. These may initially seem like an attractive idea but you will discover they are full of advertising, have many members who are clearly not at all sincere, and you may also find your inbox is bombarded with spam from all the advertisers your e-mail address has been sold to. The last completely free site we reviewed had a chat room in which we 'lurked' and discovered what appeared to be a group of teenage boys boasting about the rude and offensive messages they had been posting. They had been reported to moderators and their ability to send messages had been temporarily suspended. They agreed the new names they were about to reregister under and then disappeared.

Remember: If they will let you in for free, everyone and anyone else gets in for free as well.

Sweetheart Scams

Apart from problems with sites, you must also beware of individual scammers who join genuine sites to prey on the vulnerable. There is very little the dating sites can do about this as they change their identity and use fake photographs so beware of this even if you are using the most rigorously checked sites.

This particular type of scam comes in a number of flavours including:

- A fellow national working overseas (perhaps in Nigeria) for a few months who needs you to cash money orders for him.

- An overseas lady who loves exchanging messages with you but she urgenly needs money to pay her phone bill so she can keep in touch.

- A wonderful women who is desperate to come and see you but she needs money for medical bills because her beloved mother/sister is very ill.

- A gorgeous and uninhibited young lady (perhaps Russian) who is amazingly eager to come and fulfil all your fantasies once you send here the money for visa and travel expenses.

Collectively known as "sweetheart" scams, the aim of these is simple: to separate you from your money, preferable all of it by getting your banking details or getting you to cash counterfeit money orders that will rebound on you later. Usually the charming/attractive online date is out of the country, either living overseas or 'on business' so a face-to-face meeting is initially out of the question. Naturally the requests for money don't arrive until a relationship has been built (in some cases over several months!) and start with very small, modest and relatively harmless requests that you might feel silly to refuse. People running these scams are playing a 'long game' and are attempting to develop relationships with dozens of possible 'marks' at the same time. One of the characteristics of these is often the fact that return messages are not particularly attentive and do not use your screen name or refer to anything you said previously. This is because it's hard work keeping several internet relationships on the go so the scammer has standard messages that they can send out to everyone with minimal editing: a kind of 'keep em hooked' production line. These are particularly nasty scams as they have involved losses running into tens of thousands of dollars and they play on the needs of people who may be lonely and vulnerable.

Remember: A real date will not ask you for any financial gifts, favours or information.


This is a 'shorter' game. You meet online, you get on well, he sends you gifts, you arrange to meet in a romantic restaurant for dinner. He sends a text to apologise because he is running half an hour late but please wait as he is desperate to meet you. At this point, he knows where you live (you gave him your home address so he could send gifts), that you live alone (it came up in the exchange of messages), and he knows where you are and exactly how long he has to clear your house out.

Remember: He doesn't need to know your home address. Gifts can be sent to you via your Amazon account and other online gift shops will usually let you supply the delivery address once he sends you the order number.

Call Charges

This is an even shorter game than burglary. The story goes as follows: You meet online, he/she sends you a phone number, you call them, they keep you on the phone for ages, your phone bill comes in, you're broke.

Apart from dating, the ease of setting up a premium rate telephone account has let to a number of telephone scams. One that appeared in the UK about a year involved a damsel in distress knocking at your door, explaining that her car had broken down and asking to borrow your phone. Before using it she would offer to pay for the call and you would, of course, refuse this (by doing this, the scammer made sure no charges could be pressed). She would then phone her husband at work and there would be a few delays with getting him to the phone and interruptions so the call would last five minutes. If you were so untrusting that you listened in, you'd hear the conversation with her and a secretary, colleague, husband, background voice interrupting etc. In fact she would have dialed a premium rate telephone number charging up to £150 a minute and be working to a memorised script as she talked to a 5 minutes long recorded message.

Remember: Always check the first few digits of a phone number on the internet to see what the call is going to cost you.

Clearly there are a lot of unscrupulous people out there and this kind of scam works. The British Office of Fair Trading estimates UK consumers lose around £1 billion pounds a year to scams of this kind. Fortunately it's possible to avoid most of these problems by (a) making yourself aware of them, (b) keeping realistic about what you are looking at and how much you know about the person you are messaging and (c) making sure you use a reputable and established dating service.

About The Author

Valerie Catcheside is the editor of' s dating pages where you can find news, scam alerts, advice and online dating site reviews.

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This article was posted by permission.

Wed Aug 15, 2007 11:31 am
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