Looking for Love in Online Places May Lead to Scams

The holiday season for some is a time for looking for love. No one likes to be alone for the holidays, so some put pressure on themselves to hit the dating sites. But there are risks with online dating and should you choose to engage, use some good judgment when exchanging information with those you meet via online dating sites or even social media. Unfortunately, not everyone is truly looking for love. Instead, they threaten you if you don’t pay up.

There are many scams involving online dating and friendships nurtured via social media such as Facebook. In many cases, the scammers use social engineering to lure victims into a false sense of security. Once a relationship is formed, whether romantic or otherwise, some plea for financial assistance is requested. In a recent scam, the romance turns from texting and sending photos to a threat of arrest and it’s realistic enough that it may take a while for the potential victim to realize it’s really a scam.

One victim was chatting away with someone he had met on a dating site. According to her profile, she was in her late twenties. Once trust had been built, the woman sent some provocative pictures and asked him for some in return.

Not wanting to disappoint, he did it. The next thing he knew, she revealed herself to be a minor and he immediately received a call from the “local police.” He was suspicious and looked up the phone number that showed on his caller ID. It did show as belonging to the police. He picked up and was threatened with three felony counts and a prison sentence.

He then received a call from the girl’s “father” who implied that money might make the problem go away. That’s when the victim got wise.

There are a couple of notes in this scam. Firstly, it’s not difficult to make a phone number appear to come from someone else. It happens all the time. Sometimes there are legitimate reasons to spoof a phone number. For example, if you own a business and have several phone lines, you might like them all to reflect as coming from one single number so your customers don’t get confused.

However, there are many scammers who change them just to trick you into picking up. A recent tactic involves changing the number to make it appear as if it is from someone nearby, such as a neighbor. This is called “neighbor spoofing.” Sometimes, they make the number your own hoping that you’ll pick up, even if out of sheer curiosity. Just don’t answer. If you do, don’t press any numbers or provide any information. Just hang up.

The second point in the case of this romance scam, just don’t send compromising photos. Not only can they be used against you in situations like this, but also in some cases it may be a felony.

Don’t be afraid to use online dating sites. There are many success stories. However, should something like this happen to you, report it to local authorities. If people don’t, these scams will only continue and there will be more innocent victims.

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