Dating scams have become quite commonplace in the online world today. With more and more people turning to chat, dating and social networking sites to meet people and find romance, crooks and scammers from all around the world are licking their chops at all the available opportunities they now have. Though it seems no networking site is entirely immune, many are now finally taking the matter seriously and implementing more elaborate security measures. Nevertheless, scammers are becoming more and more sophisticated as well, finding and exploiting any available loophole. The only way to finally and totally quash this problem, if indeed it will ever be entirely quashed, is to bombard the online world with warnings and information. When we can rid the Internet of naïve victims, perhaps then we can finally rid the Internet of these foul perpetrators.
Although there is a lot of recent talk of Nigeria and the Ivory Coast, the reality is these scammers (I refrain to call them scam artists, as there is little if any artistry in it) are located in numerous countries around the world. As a result, addressing this problem is not always as simple as blocking visitors (IPs) from just one or two countries. Not to mention that many of the perpetrators are accessing the Internet through satellite servers, using the IP of neighboring countries. Many of the best dating sites are now disallowing mass mails, and taking further precautions in monitoring e-mails for scam appropriate language such as e-mail address spelt out (example: billsmithatyahoodotcom). The better sites can block these types of tricks, and are doing so each day with more and more sophistication. However, even the very best dating and social networking sites can not always pick up on everything. This is why it is so important that online users are well educated and informed.
Here's how it usually happens. Most scammers will simply log into a dating or social networking site, and send a generic message to members that fit particular criteria. For example, if the scammer is posing as an attractive female, he or she will likely attempt to contact single male members. The message will likely be very flattering, will probably mention one specific thing (the rest was copied and pasted), and will then invite the member to e-mail them at a personal address (likely a live or yahoo mail address). The scammer will then leave the site, and move on to another without ever actually returning to the earlier site. This way they are not worried if there membership is deleted, as they now hope to get their messages at their outside e-mail address. If a member should respond to this scammer, the scammer will then proceed with his or her scheme. The goal of all these schemes is to either have you send them money, or to provide them with personal information (example: banking information). Many scammers will come up with unique and incredible stories to try to appeal to your romantic or sympathetic side.
The first thing you can do is to never respond to an email that solicits you to reply to a personal, outside e-mail account. Assuming the dating site is free, you should keep your first few exchanges on the site itself. If you do get a suspicious e-mail (often in poor grammar and generic sounding), alert the site administrators and then delete the message. There is probably no point in responding to the message on the site, as the scammer is unlikely to return. However, if the administrator deletes the scammer's account, it should also delete all the messages sent. This might prevent others from seeing the same message and responding.
Though this should address the majority of scams, there are still those that will hang around on a site and build relationships with multiple members. This is why you should try to pick a chat, dating or social networking site that has free video chat available. Video chat is an excellent way of verifying the visual identity of someone. If someone refuses to video chat with you for even a minute, there is a good chance this person may not look like the photograph (or photographs) he or she is using. A lot of date scammers take their profile pictures from modeling sites. However, remember that appearances are not everything. If the person your messaging claims to live in your area, you should decide upon a public place to meet sooner than later in the relationship. If, however, you decide to participate in a long distance relationship, always keep your guard up and keep your eyes and ears open for anything suspicious.
Despite the obvious flaws and setbacks, online chat, dating and social networking are still awesome ways of keeping up with friends and meeting new people. Dating sites are especially successful in providing the average single with more choice and selection than he or she otherwise would have. So be informed, and let common sense govern your online endeavors. Be a bit skeptical, but remember that there are a lot of other genuine people like you looking for love and romance. Do not let a few rotten apples spoil all your fun. When enough of us have been informed, these scammers will have no either choice but to move on to their next scheme.