January 18, 2008

Internet dating scams and how to stay safe

Access to the Internet and the sharp global rise in online dating sites have created new opportunites and new threats. Industry leaders such as Match.com, eHarmony, Yahoo Personals and Cherry Blossoms were among the first to establish the market for online dating. Since then, new websites are popping up on a weekly basis, and relationship scams are on the rise.

The Red Flags

Contrary to popular belief, it doesn't take a dope to fall victim to online dating scams. Criminals searching the match-making sites are increasingly professional and sophisticated in their tactics. Scammers first contact their victims via email, then by telephone - they may even send flowers and carry on a relationship for months. Their pictures are beautiful, their personality so perfect. Then, the "emergency" happens. The young man or woman has been in a terrible accident, and yes, he or she needs money. More scammers are taking the time to build the trust level, once that trust is established, the victim is sold and the money lost.

Countries of Concern

The major countries in the world for relationship fraud are those in West Africa, the former Soviet Union block nations, and the Philippines. However, due to increasing technology being used by the scammers, as well as globalization, criminals now work from just about every nation on the globe. Easy access to technology has made this possible. These days, a scam can originate from England or the U.S. just as easily as from Nigeria.

Staying Safe Online

First, remember no site is immune. Match.com and the many others are all affected by persons seeking to commit relationship fraud. Know that scams and relationship fraud can come from any country in the world. Be wary of anyone who falls in love too fast or sudden emergencies and request for financial assistance. Be very careful about revealing personal information, and anyone (even Mr. or Ms. Perfect) who requests such information.

Verification Services

Because of the dangers of meeting someone special via the Internet, we always advise consumers to get a background check to confirm the person's identity. If the relationship is getting serious, we recommend verifying the person's story with a professional background check firm such as Wymoo or Philippine PI (for the Philippines). This kind of service is always confidential and can give you the piece of mind you're looking for. At the very least, the service can help you make an informed decision.

All the Best,

S. Birch

© 2006-2008 S. Birch
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Posted by the Investigators

This copyrighted article was written and published by the editor and site author, S. Birch, or other guest private investigator, expert or contributor as stated.