There are lots of pitfalls of online dating, from the creepy messages on OKCupid to the existential emptiness that Tinder can leave you with, but it turns out online dating has dangers you might never have realized. According to the FBI, online daters are the top victims of Internet fraud. In other words, the person you're chatting with might not want to get into your pants so much as they want to get into your bank account. Yikes!
According to a new report from the FBI, confidence frauds and romance schemes caused Americans to lose more money in total in 2014 than any other type of fraud, outpacing even things like auto fraud and extortion. About 5,800 total complains of confidence schemes and romance fraud were filed in 2014, costing people over $86 million. If you do the math, it averages out to about $14,000 in losses per complaint.
And although men still slightly outnumber women in terms of total fraud victims, when it comes to this particular category, the vast majority of the victims appear to be women, specifically women over the age of 40. Which is really pretty awful when you think about it. Middle aged women deserve love, too, guys. They shouldn't have to worry about being taken advantage of while they're looking. Fraudsters are awful.
So how can you prevent yourself from falling victim to a potential fraud scheme? Well, in my experience, it first of all helps to be a broke Millennial without enough money to be worth scamming. But other than that, the FBI recommends that you watch out for individuals who tell you that your relationship is "fate" or "destiny" (which isn't a half bad tip in general). They also advise, "Be cautious if an individual tells you they are in love with you and they cannot live without you, but they need you to send them money so they can visit you. If you do not send them money or help them, they will claim you do not love them."
They also add that many people trying to pull a romance scam will claim to be from the United States originally — or even from your general area — but that they are currently abroad for business or family reasons, presumably to explain why you can't meet in person.
Also, the FBI doesn't mention this, but it pays to run a reverse image search before you trust anyone online. That super hot profile photo? Might not actually be their super hot profile photo.
And in general, it's good to remember that suspicion is a good default mode online. Our generation grew up with the Internet, and as a result, I think we tend to view it as a natural, nonthreatening thing (at least I tend to). And while our technological savvy can probably help us spot some of the more obvious frauds, as online crime becomes more common, it will also become more sophisticated.
For instance, FBI statistics in this report also show that more and more fraud schemes today involve social media in some fashion, and virtual currency scams (especially those involving Bitcoin) are becoming increasingly popular with criminals, too. Criminals are getting more creative.
So just remember, be careful in the online jungle. Because even though our generation's collective lack of funds offers us some protection now, eventually we will (hopefully) be worth enough for criminals to try targeting us, too. Fingers crossed.
Images: Fotolia; Giphy (2)