According to the FTC’s website, dating/romance scam claims were 50% higher in 2020 than 2019 where claims hit a record-breaking $304 MILLION. Note: that was 2 years ago and only includes what was actually reported! Many of these scams go unreported because many victims feel ashamed.
Dating site scammers prey heavily on our vulnerabilities & even our drive to help others. As such, dating sites have become prime hunting grounds. Scammers seek more than money. They mine personal information to create credit accounts and to hack into existing accounts. They offer to help out with our debts, another way to gain access to our accounts.
While messaging, they request and collect photos as well as our personality traits by caching messages & replies to their ceaseless questions. They collect our photos and our words to create fake dating site profiles to then lure in and scam others.
Ohh, and one more thing: they also want to learn how to improve their scamming ways. When we share that something does not feel right, they want to know how and why. With all this said, these individuals (and groups) are working multi-level scams on unsuspecting daters all at once.
Here I share some of the things I noticed as odd both while I was chatting with them* and then in my post-mortem (trust me, I wanted to vomit for days sorting through all the clues I overlooked). Piled altogether, you may be thinking why TF did you keep talking with this “guy?!” Well, this unfolded over the course of 3-4 days, and it did not happen all at once.
Finally, there may be more than one blessing in disguise here. In continuing to talk with this “fellow,” I was both able to see patterns and things that I can share here which may help others to avoid these traps, or even understand how it was easy to have been scammed. Another blessing in disguise** is one I share at the very end.
Also, I intentionally leave out some specifics and instead focus on the generalities, lest a scammer glean from this how to further sharpen their skills.
*While the dating profile was male, I am fairly certain that I was communicating with a woman or even a group of people. For these reasons, I refer to the scammer as they/them.
Things that were curious:
- Frequently repeated lists & phrases about their personality traits & likes; in retrospect it felt kinda like being brainwashed even when I had doubts…
- Dating profile “facts” did not always match with what was said in chatting; location in the profile was one place that they never mentioned.
- Being deployed overseas in the military was a really good excuse for not being able to talk nor to meet in person. Later, I found out they could have called if they wanted.
- Frequently asking questions about what I was/was not looking for in a partner, relationship. A good bit of “skimming-the-surface” chats and not in-depth conversations.
- Asking for multiple pictures a day of me, my food even.
- A lot of commentary from them around how important honesty was! Some call these confidence scams…
- How important their religion was to them, yet didn’t seem to mind that I didn’t share their beliefs.
- Several tragic stories including how they had been cheated on, lied to and even scammed themselves! Yet they were willing to openly share extra info early on. I almost told them they shared too much on several occasions…
- Early & intense sharing of thirst trap pics and detailed personal information (probably hoping I’d share my info and vulnerable pics, too).
- When I asked if they had a social media account, they said it had been hacked.
- They wanted to know financial information like how much money I made or how much debt I was in. that’s all a nun-ya.
- They asked for pics of my kids more than once. also a nun-ya.
- Big “asks” were made later in the evenings, when I was more likely to be tired from the day and less discerning, more likely to fall for it.
- Little tolerance for me having my own time/things to do. Messaging early and late, as if to be sure I was still under their spell, I suppose.
- If I asked for further information about a superficial topic, their retort was “I told you…” and “do you understand now?”
- The need for me to share my personal information with their regional commander so they could talk with me or request leave.
- They didn’t speak about their child much.
- If I shared with them a strong response, instead of countering back, they would just be “okay.”
- I found myself asking if this was too good to be true in the first day or two.
- Early attempts to claim me as their woman, princess, etc. Lots of use of “Sweetie” and “babe” even when I told them to stop.
- Not being able to say where within a city/area they were going to buy a house when they got back to the states.
- They shared pics of a house they owned that was empty, like it was taken straight from a realtor’s site.
- There was a lot of “extra” sharing on their part when it came to their military rank and finances.
- They shared a screenshot of their “bank account” with way more money in it than you would expect of someone in the military.
- Time zone differences did not add up. They said they were in one country and they would sometimes report local times to me that were not the same as the actual time in that country.
- Their work shifts were extra long sometimes, and they continued to message even when they were supposedly working.
- They never seemed to sleep.
- Offering to help with debt.
- Commonly used military phrases were not properly used.
- Things just went too far too fast. Several times I asked them to pump the brakes.
- Co-dependency vibes were high… “I need you,” or “I’ve really fallen for you/your profile and think about you constantly.” Ummm, you don’t know me. I even suggested that we take a step back because they kept saying this kind of stuff.
- They wanted me to dream about them at night and would ask the next day if I dreamt about them. Even after the first day.
- I felt I was repeating myself about basic things. I’d make a comment about how I slept (poorly, or like a rock) and a few messages later they’d ask how I’d slept or if I dreamt about them. Or if I mentioned I routinely fasted in the morning, the next day they’d ask what I ate for breakfast.
- When I went back into their profile on day 2, because I had some questions, I noticed the location had changed from East to West Coast even though they were supposedly overseas.
Having watched the Tinder Swindler, Reinventing Anna and The Bad Vegan, I was aware of some of the ways in which scammers work their targets. This helped me to internally question when they were sharing their abundance stories, making me question if this was a scam even when I was not quite sure yet. Then when they said, “I’m going to need your help soon because my accounts are frozen,” I knew.
Things I’ve done since this unfolded:
- “Cleaned up” as many digital loose ends as I could: deleted unused accounts, unsubscribed from emails, removed YouTube and even dormant WordPress accounts.
- Moved any important/sensitive accounts to a different email account.
- Changed many passwords to suggested “strong” ones and set up 2-step authentication where I could.
- Changed profile pics and made all social media accounts private. No public social media profile pictures have my face.
- Told as many people as I could, retelling the story has helped me to see more patterns.
- Reported them in as many places as I could.
- The FTC and FBI only seem interested if the scam involved financial losses.
Things I’d do differently:
- Listen to my gut sooner. I was hesitant about even liking the guy’s profile, however, I was pushing myself to be less picky, more adventurous and trusting (zing at me).
- Reverse google search almost immediately after matching before much messaging.
- Stay on the dating site longer (even though I find dating site messaging can get annoying fast).
- Dig deeper sooner with my questions – so much was superficial with this guy.
- Look for more conversation & general sharing vs answering/asking of questions.
- Giving a burner phone number/email.
**Blessing in Disguise
In questioning one of their claims that I needed to be “cleared” to be able to talk with them while they were overseas on a military base, I wrote a friend who is currently deployed overseas in a “hotter” country than the dating site bandit was claiming to be in. By contacting this IRL friend, it put me on his radar to share video footage of significant muscle fasciculations (cramping) that lasted for several minutes while he was resting. This video hit my own “this is not okay medically” radar.
I was very adamant with said friend that he needed to get this medically checked out ASAP. It turns out, he was almost admitted to the hospital. He was spared potential kidney damage, job loss, hospitalization and even death by going to medical sooner vs later. So even though going through this dating scam b.s. sucked for me, it ultimately lead me to helping out a friend who did not know he was in need.