Online dating and romance scams often begin as a typical online relationship. A person sees another’s profile, gets drawn to the person, and makes a move. The two individuals start exchanging information about weather, work, life, hobbies as they inch closer and closer emotionally.
With limited travel and the risk of catching Covid in social places during the pandemic, many people turned to the internet searching for love. Sadly, however, scammers are lurking on dating sites looking for unsuspecting men and women to dupe.
Mr or Mrs Right could be an opportunistic criminal attempting to access your life savings, yet sound so convincing. Women are, in most cases, the victims of online dating schemes.
Posing as interested and ready to settle down, scammers wait for the opportune moment to dupe their victims into sending money or items of value such as phones or laptops.
The fraudsters will regale their victim with endless tales meant to soften the victim’s heart before they extract money. They can sound believable, using emotive language and stories to manipulate.
Some of their common lies include a claim that they need money for a medical emergency. Lately, some claim to have contracted Covid-19, hence needing urgent help lest they die.
They even make a “plan” to visit you, but just before they board a plane, they halt their travel plans on the pretext that an emergency has struck them.
If you request a video call, they will always decline — because they do not want their identity exposed. They are usually swift to profess love, much sooner than one would normally expect.
If your online “suiter” is all about flamboyance, showing off exotic mansions, state-of-the-art cars, and all the trappings of wealth and influence, think twice. These could be honeytraps meant to bait you.
Sometimes the scammer can advise investing in products or services that sound lucrative but complex to comprehend. Take your time to investigate the investment, as it could be a ploy to siphon money from your bank account.
Do not be quick to reveal too much personal information to a person you can’t tell if they are whom they profess to be. Protect yourself by revealing less about yourself until you establish the identity of your online acquaintance.
The next level
If unsure whether you are ready to move to the next level, talk to someone you trust. They may help you to see signs that you may be missing. Importantly, do not make rushed decisions. Ask probing questions and look for inconsistent answers.
While online dating and social media have become common places to find love and friendship, they are also teeming with fraudsters. Do not jump before knowing where you will land. Keep your cards close to your heart until you remove the veil off your new-found online love.
SamWambungu is an Inforrmatician [email protected]