The Internet has created more opportunities for people to connect than any other invention. Chat rooms, social networking sites, and online dating services offer us the chance to find that perfect someone without having to endure the dating scene. Unfortunately this convenience comes with a price. Many scam artists use online dating as an avenue for fraud.
One common scam involves re-shipping. Identity thieves who have used stolen or counterfeit credit cards to purchase merchandise online often look for another address to receive their ill-gotten gains, thereby making it hard for authorities to track them down. Typically, they will befriend someone through social networking, gain their trust, ask them to receive packages for them, and then re-ship the packages to another address. The victim, thinking that they are helping a friend or love interest, becomes an unwitting accomplice to receiving stolen property.
Fraudsters also use online dating to steal money directly from their victims. Once a con artist has gained their trust, he creates a situation that requires the victim to send him money. This is often in the form of travel expenses, medical bills, or even bail. Usually, once the money has been sent, the fraudster disappears. Occasionally, scam artists will continue to bilk a victim over and over again, continuing until the trust has been exhausted.
Money is not the only motivation for online dating deception. Sexual predators also use the Internet to find and lure victims. While this tactic is often used against children, many adults have become the victims of sexual assault because they trusted someone they met online.
Online dating can be safe if you take sensible precautions. Never agree to accept packages on someone else’s behalf. Never send money to someone that you have not met or don’t know well. Do not agree to meet someone by yourself for the first time. Pick a public place that you’re comfortable with and bring a friend along. Take some time to get to know people before placing your trust in them. Your life may depend on it.