The internet has made life so much easier in many ways and it attempts to make dating easier as well. And by dating, I mean actual going-out-on-a-date, so I am not referring to websites whose primary goal is not dating and building a meaningful relationship. Yes, Virginia, those do exist.
Online dating is one way to meet people that you otherwise may not meet, meaning that your paths do not cross in life. This is good, but it can also be bad. Meeting a complete stranger online means that you have no idea if what he or she is saying is true. There are whole websites out there devoted to helping women and men find out if they are being scammed by a person they met on a dating website.
Based on my unfortunately vast experience, I now submit to you ten ways to know if you are being scammed:
1. Your new friend is deployed overseas.
This is unfortunate, as many men and women are actually deployed by the armed forces overseas. Ask for their address. They should be able to give it to you without any reservation. No one is on such a remote or top-secret base that they cannot give out their address. For real. The address for an American armed forces person should resemble something like this:
PFC JOHN DOE
PSC 3 BOX 4120
APO AE 09021
PSC 3 BOX 4120
APO AE 09021
If he or she can't give you an address, walk away. Quickly.
2. As an aside to #1: If he or she asks you to use a freight forwarder or any kind of go between for mail, you are being scammed. It sometimes may take a while for mail to get to our deployed men and women, but the United States gets it done and does not need any help from the schmoe down the street from the base.
3. Your new friend uses colloquialisms and phrases that don't sound like anyone else that speaks English uses. Does he refer to an elevator as a "lift"? There are a thousand examples, but if the way your friend writes or speaks does not sound like normal American English, you're being scammed.
4. Undoubtedly your new friend has posted a picture of himself. Save this picture to your hard drive, then go the Google home page, click on Images, and then click on the little camera icon in the search bar. Click on Upload An Image and then browse your computer and click where you saved your friend's picture. Google will search every image it has to find ones that look like it. If there is one exactly like it, find out where that picture came from and if it is indeed your new friend. If it is not your friend but rather a regular guy from somewhere in Iowa or wherever, you're being scammed.
5. If you suspect that your new friend is maybe not who he or she pretends to be, you can trace where their email came from. Using the IP address and the header, you can learn a lot more about your new friend. http://whatismyipaddress.com/trace-email If it turns out that your email from your new friend has a forged header, or if their email does not come from where it should, you're being scammed.
6. Love, sweet love. Who doesn't want to fall in love? Everyone wants to be in love! But if your new friend falls head over heels in love with you in a week or less, you're being scammed. And I know this sounds soooo cynical. But isn't it a good idea to take it slow with someone you know nothing about, except what he or she tells you?
7. I shouldn't even have to write this, but if someone you meet online asks for money, don't walk, RUN away quickly. And in a different scenario, if your deployed overseas friend needs to sell his motorcycle to be able to pay for his mother's hospital bills, and wants you to accept the check for the motorcycle and wire the money to him, (since after all, he is deployed overseas and doesn't trust the mail system) RUN AWAY AS FAST AS YOU CAN. CHANGE YOUR EMAIL. This is a classical ruse. You deposit the check, it could even be a business check, and wire the money. Well, guess what? The likelihood of your check bouncing is about 100%, and you are stuck holding the bag for whatever amount you wired. This did not happen to me, thank goodness, but I have heard that this has happened many times before.
8. Let's pretend that you and your new friend have been corresponding and texting and he seems pretty normal and uses standard English and doesn't want money. Do you know any facts about him that can be googled? If not, you may want to find out why. This is pretty typical of the married man who is on dating websites and is a LOW-DOWN, NO GOOD CHEATER. Walk away fast, because a man you met while he was cheating on his wife will do the same thing to you.
9. One sure sign of a scammer is that he or she will want to chat with you off of the dating website as soon as possible. Often he will suggest Yahoo chat or Google hangouts or any chat. He or she may even want to Skype. If your new friend doesn't want to chat on the dating website, it's likely that he or she is trying to not be caught in their same old tired tricks that dating websites are on the lookout for.
10. If your new friend seems to be absolutely everything you would ever want in a date, then tread carefully. The phrase "too good to be true" didn't make itself up. If you are online, unless you have your security settings locked down tight, you are pretty much an open book. You know how you google someone new to find out more about him? It works both ways.
And despite all of this, I still believe in love. But I don't think I'll find it on a dating website. But good luck to you and may Cupid's arrow fly straight and true to your heart.