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Online Dating Scams (and how to avoid them)

January 23, 2011

This week I was interviewed by NBC News for a follow-up story on online dating scams. They’d run a story a few weeks before by a woman who’d gone on match.com fallen in love, “lent” her online lover $16,000 and after a few months also been persuaded to send nude pictures. She was the victim of a scam. The reporter shared with me that the responses to her story ranged from sympathy to “How could she be so dumb?”  Here’s how (and how to avoid the same fate):

How Can You Be So Dumb?

Don’t be so smug. Very few people can tell a sociopath from a charming, sincere person (especially without meeting them).  While not all of the 25% of married, but “single” wannabes on dating websites are sociopaths, this statistic does let you know that you can’t always believe what you read . And when you’re vulnerable enough to fall in love,  your brain chemistry isn’t your friend. Your serotonin levels goes down (making you more obsessive–“when will I get the next email, the next text, the next call?”).  Your oxytocin level goes up (making you more trusting).  It’s what makes the world goes ’round, and what makes people easy pickin’s for the determined scam artist. Sociopaths most often target women over 50 for these dating scams. But it can happen to anyone.

Here are some tips to avoid becoming a victim:

1. Don’t give out personal information. Stick with what you’d  be comfortable telling a stranger.

2. Remember that online dating is efficient, but don’t become invested before you’ve met in person, and spent time with the individual.

3. If they put off meeting in person, put them off.

4. Good excuses: “I’m out of the country on business; I’m working two jobs,” may be true, but these excuses may simply be designed to keep you invested.

5. Never send money. Never e-send nude photos–they can be used to blackmail you.

6. Dating services don’t police their members–that’s your job.

Visit websites that help protect you:

 

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