10 ways to spot a scammer
‘I’d like to try internet dating,’ confided a friend at church, ‘but I’ve heard stories about scammers, even on Christian websites. I’m a trusting person, HopefulGirl, and I’m not all that web-savvy. I’m worried I’ll be taken in by a conman.’
Dating websites are sometimes targeted by fraudsters, who try to convince their victims that they’re the answer to their prayers, then con them out of money. Sadly, Christian websites aren’t immune. The vast majority of members are genuine, and I happen to know that the good people at Christian Connection work hard at weeding out conmen (and conwomen) – in fact, most are intercepted before they ever make it onto the site. But it’s impossible to keep ahead of them all, and there will always be a few who slip through the net. So as members, we need to be ‘wise as serpents’ and keep our eyes open for signs of deception, reporting anyone who raises our suspicions.
‘I was taken in,’ admitted one pal. ‘I started receiving very complimentary emails from a beautiful woman. The penny should have dropped when she started describing me as “The One” before we’d even met. I finally woke up when she told me she was stranded in Africa after a cancelled flight, and could I send £400 to cover her expenses? The sad reality is that there are con artists everywhere, preying on people who want to believe the best in others.’
Thankfully, my friend realised he was dealing with a scammer before it was too late, but some people end up with empty pockets and broken hearts. Scammers can spend months building a ‘relationship’ of trust, and they know what to say to sound like a devout believer. Then they hit their victim with a sob story and requests for money or help with immigration. By then, people sometimes can’t bear to accept it’s all been a lie.
The good news is that it’s actually fairly easy to spot a scammer early, before you waste too much time or emotion energy. Here are 10 red flags to look out for:
1. Their picture looks straight out of a model’s portfolio.
2. They fall ‘in love’ with you quickly, despite not having met in person, and make promises of marriage.
3. They try to quickly move you off the website and onto email, instant messaging, Skype or Facebook. Christian Connection’s messaging service protects your contact details for a reason, and you should stick to it until you know someone in person.
4. They fish for personal information. Be wary of anyone too pushy – if they’re trustworthy, they’ll support your desire to protect yourself.
5. They claim to be from the UK but working overseas – for instance, in the army.
6. Their written English isn’t good, with lots of spelling and grammar mistakes, and strange turns of phrase.
7. Things don’t quite add up, details change and conversations are stilted (scammers are often maintaining ‘relationships’ with multiple victims at once).
8. Circumstances keep preventing you from meeting in person, such as illness, travel issues or family problems.
9. If you try to end communication, they attempt to emotionally manipulate you or claim you’re letting them down.
10. They eventually ask for money to visit you, or for a crisis situation such as illness or being stranded without help.
If you have any concerns, trust your instincts. Cut off contact and report it immediately to the website administrators to investigate confidentially. Never, ever send money, or share any financial or personal details. But if you have, don’t be embarrassed to report the deception.
Remember, the vast majority of members on Christian Connection are genuine, so there’s really no need to be alarmed. Just keep a wise and slightly sceptical head on your shoulders, and you can enjoy internet dating without fear.