If you spent a pretty penny on a first date wooing a new girl you’re not 100 percent sure about (yet)—we have good-ish news for you. You probably didn’t spend millions of dollars only to end up disappointed, right? Consider yourself lucky, since scams on online dating sites are not only common but pricey AF. In fact, according to reports filed with the Federal Trade Commission, hopeful singles looking for love (or some sexy time) online lost at least $143 million to scams. Of all of the possible fooled-ya’s out there, online dating is the most profitable.
As with any industry or market, the more activity online—or in between thumbs—the more likely criminals are to take advantage of a pool of gullible bachelors and bachelorettes. And considering how much app dating has taken off thanks to Tinder, Bumble, Hinge and the rest of ‘em, the FTC estimates loss has quadrupled since 2015.
So what goes down exactly? It’s a term Datezie has covered before—catfishing—where someone poses as someone else and lures you in under a false pretense. Posing as your ideal mate, they’ll dedicate hours getting to know you, saying the right things, turning you on and getting you excited… only to ask for a favor. And that inquiry? You guessed it: mostly monetary.
As the FTC shared in a blog post, “Once these fraudsters have people by the heartstrings, they say they need money, often for a medical emergency or some other misfortune. They often claim to be in the military and stationed abroad, which explains why they can’t meet in person. Pretending to need help with travel costs for a long-awaited visit is another common ruse.”
The average catfishing victim will lose out on $2,600—a huge amount considering the average income of an American household is less than $60K annually.
To protect yourself and your hard-earned cash, the FTC shares a few never-ignore rules for online romance:
- Never send money or gifts if you haven’t met someone in person.
- Get a second opinion on whoever it you’re talking to. While the excitement is nice and can feel like the start of a special connection, an outside source can help you take off those rose-colored glasses and see the truth. If your friends and family aren’t onboard—it’s worth your attention.
- Go slow! You don’t have to rush into anything—especially with a stranger.
- Research. While it does seem counterproductive to the trust that relationships need, if they are avoiding meeting up in person, you have a right to do your due diligence. From reverse photo lookup to asking follow-up questions and more, these are ways to fact check.