Profile Police

onlineI just finished reading a blog describing an “older gentleman” who was so desperate for love following an ugly divorce that he fell, in rapid succession, head over heels for four online dating scams, buying their lines and sending them money.

The older I’ve gotten, the more I also seem to be in the target age for scam artists, especially when it comes to online dating.  It probably has something to do with being perceived as a frail, lonely old lady.  Not.

Last summer, I ventured out once again onto two well-known, well-advertised, pretty reputable sites and paid both membership fees.  Thought I might as well maximize my options. 

I searched on one site and, Whoo Hoo, there he was, Mr. Potentially Wonderful.  Then I realized, a screen later, there he was again, the same profile with a different user name and photo. And, two profiles down, there he was yet again! Three Mr. W’s, different ages, different user names, different towns, identical profiles and all within a twenty mile radius. Evidently scammers never studied geography.

On the second site, I received a good number of emails.  Probably a third were from scammers lurking on the site.  

I sometime wonder if the online dating sites actually monitor for scam artists or just rely on paying members to do the policing job for them. 

The sites warn members not to give out personal email addresses or send money, excellent advice, but not nearly enough. So, for those of you venturing out into the online dating scene, here are some pointers I’ve figured out:

I:  If s/he looks too good to be true, be wary. Great looking photos, widowed, no kids, professional, exceptionally high income…those warning flags should be waving.

I look for profession and location; sometimes, it’s almost comical…one of my favorites was a purported PhD, employed at the corporate offices of an east coast company while living in the middle of Death Valley CA in a town with a population of 27.  uh huh.

II:  If s/he can’t talk on the phone or meet you within a few emails, especially if the emails quickly become overly romantic, as opposed to flirtatious, proceed with caution. Texting doesn’t count as a phone call. This is especially true if they are, ahem, unexpectedly working out of the country in an area that can’t be accessed by voice, Skype or Facetime.  They’re working alright, probably on getting into your bank account.

III: Read the narrative:  If anything looks the least suspect, I copy a couple sentences, paste it into Google search and wait for Google to work its magic.

Nine times out of ten: BINGO! The same profile narrative pops up all over the world…same site, different sites, different user names, different ages, different ethnicities, sometimes even a different gender, but the cut ‘n paste approach apparently works well for the scam artists in Nigeria and Russia that are just waiting for you to answer their emails, winks or flirts.

Bless the Google Goddess that lists them all.

If you find a scam profile, do report it to the online dating service as a concern — with an explanation as to the other websites they’re on and the profile names being used; otherwise, the dating website has to actually investigate the concern, which doesn’t always happen.  If you do the work for them, the dating service will usually delete the scam profiles on its site.

It goes without saying that dating sites could do a much better screening for scam artists.

In the meantime, whenever I’m on a dating site, I continue reporting the scam profiles.  I also continue asking to get paid for doing their job, but my requests are ignored. Too bad.  It could be a great side income.