More couples are meeting on the Internet thanks to the growing number of online matchmaking businesses. This $1.2 billion industry attracts nearly 42 million sign-ups in the United States alone.
But with every successful match comes the potential for heartbreak and, sadly, fraud. It might be easy to let your guard down when you come across someone who seems perfect and says all the right things, especially after paying hefty annual membership fees. But it's important to be mindful of safety.
Here are four red flags to watch for when dating online:
- Fast replies. Are your emails answered too quickly, even when you didn’t tell this person your typical Internet schedule? That could indicate the message came from someone who gets paid to develop online relationships for the purpose of defrauding them.
- Repetitive content. Is the content of the emails somewhat repetitive, or are you answering questions you’ve already answered? It may be that the scammers aren’t holding to their own “caseload,” so the next available person is responding to your emails.
- Strange or poor language and grammar. While many people don’t have perfect grammar, especially when writing casual emails, you may find that the nice person from Iowa you’ve been chatting with is actually a scammer based in a foreign country, routing the emails through a different server to make them look authentic. Conversely, be watchful for responses that are almost too perfect grammatically and don’t quite fit the conversation you’re having. These could be signs that the responses were cut and pasted from a pre-approved script.
- Requests for money. The most telling sign that something’s not right is when the scammer finally gets to the point: money. No matter how long you’ve chatted, no matter how many emails you’ve exchanged, and no matter how well you think you know this person, if he or she asks for money, this is not legitimate. There is no reason for someone you’ve only spoken to through email to ask you for money. If you haven’t even reached the point where you’ve spoken on the phone or have met in person, then you don’t know him or her well enough to be loaning funds. As sad as it is and as hurtful as it feels, it’s best to terminate this “friendship.”
Trust your instincts, just as you would in real life when meeting someone in a store or at a social event. If you don’t get a good feeling about this person, move on. Don’t be tempted to think this is the only person out there. Remember, statistically speaking, there are 42 million other online daters waiting to meet you!