Online Dating: How To Spot A Romance Scammer

online dating, scammersHow could it happen to me, the dating coach, the savvy dater, the women who helps her clients stay safe online? Yet, after almost four years of meeting wonderful guys online, a romance scammer had me fooled. Luckily, I grew wise to his devious ways pretty quickly. But there were many others before me who weren’t quite so lucky. I share my story to keep you safe from these con artists.

How it all began

He was very handsome (at least his fake photo was good looking), and he had a sad, sweet story. Romance scammers appeal to a woman’s vulnerability. Like many women, I’m a sucker for a man who’s lost his wife. The widower pity card is a very common cover. His profile also stated that he was a Modern Orthodox Jew, just like me. This is a rarity on JDate. But I noticed an inconsistency: Orthodox Jews keep kosher and attend synagogue most Sabbaths. His profile said he kept kosher sometimes and attended synagogue infrequently. That was my first clue that something was not right.

In our second email exchange on JDate, he asked for my private email address. As a man new to the dating scene after his wife’s “tragic death,” being online was overwhelming for him. He’d rather communicate privately. That sounded legit, so I gave him my private email address.

Warning: This was a big mistake! Stay in communication on the dating site until you feel you can trust a man with your private email. Even better, you should have a special email address dedicated only to dating, just in case you ever do get scammed.

He wrote me a lovely email, telling me the sad story of his wife’s death from cancer a few years earlier. He also said he was an orphan (cue violins), and his mom tragically died in a car crash a few years ago. Good job pulling on my heartstrings. He wrote about the importance of impeccable character traits in a mate. Ironic, huh, that the liar/scammer would write so much about respect, loyalty, fidelity, honesty, and great communication. Did I mention that those words were in all CAPS?

Warning: Be wary of extreme sob stories, especially in the beginning of communication with anyone online. Even if someone has gone through crisis, it’s inappropriate to go into detail until you’ve established some sort of relationship.

He said he wanted to get to know me slowly, as he was overwhelmed about being out in the dating world after his wife’s death. But in the next email, he said he had already taken down his profile, as he wanted to get to know me better.

Warning: When a person tells you that they took down their profile right away, it usually means that they’ll soon be kicked off the site. A seasoned scammer knows the drill. Someone’s bound to report them. So, they work quickly to obtain a few women’s private email addresses before they’re booted off.

As you can see, there were many red flags, but it was easy for me to push them under the rug and give the poor guy the benefit of the doubt. My next warning appeared the next time I logged into JDate. There was a message in my inbox that someone who recently tried to contact me had violated terms and was suspended. Even though they didn’t reveal who it was, my intuition told me it must have been him. (Duh, right?) But I still gave him the benefit of the doubt. If you’ve been dating online for a few years and the pickings begin to feel slim, it’s easy to ignore your intuition and hope for the best.

So, I asked him to call me, as his emails seemed to be going nowhere. I thought it might be a language issue, as he claimed to be of German descent.

Warning: Don’t give out your number until you’ve built some rapport and trust. I purposely gave out my cell number, so he wouldn’t be able to trace my home address. Once you’re ready to share numbers, your cell is preferable.

He called me after midnight. Good thing my phone was on silent. That was the final straw for me. Now I knew for sure something was really off with him. Who makes a first phone call to a woman after midnight? I texted him the following morning that it wasn’t okay to call me late at night, and he apologized profusely. Said it would never happen again.

Meanwhile, I kept Googling and searching for some information on him. Who was this guy? I found nothing on him, until a friend told me about Google Image Search (images.google.com).

I dragged his image from JDate to my desktop and dropped it into the Google Image search. What came up was worse than I could imagine.

There was an entire page online dedicated to this guy’s scamming. Seems he’d asked several women for money. This smooth talker went by the same name on different sites. He had a profile on ChristiansMingle.com, too. He wasn’t even a Jew, let alone an Orthodox one!

Like many scammers, his stories didn’t line up, from the way he posted about his Jewish observance, to a story about his son living in California, which became Texas in the next email.  He wanted to move slowly, and then he “pulled his profile to get to know me better.” His photo was a lie, too. It was of a famous professor in London.

What to do when you’ve found a scammer?

Telling him that he’s busted will accomplish absolutely nothing except to teach him how to be better at scamming/victimizing the next woman. So, by all means, do not confront him.

Here’s what I did: I reported the abuse/fraud to the site immediately, giving clear examples and links to the page I found on the Internet uncovering the romance scam.

I told the perpetrator that I’d reunited with an old flame. I wished him well in his search for his beloved. And he thanked me for my good wishes.

Online dating is filled with all types of people, as is offline dating. Scammers are the rare exception. I still believe online dating is one of the best ways to find love today, but you need to stay safe.

Have you ever been the victim of an online romance scammer? If so, please share your experience below. If not, I hope I’ve helped prevent you from falling for one. Stay safe in your pursuit of love after 50!

For more midlife dating advice and a copy of my FREE report, “The Top Three Mistakes Midlife Daters Make (and how to turn them around to find love now)” please click here.

For exclusive articles and tips on dating, relating and mating in midlife, please ‘like’ my Facebook page.

Sandy Weiner

Sandy Weiner

Sandy Weiner is the founder of http://LastFirstDate.com. She's THE dating coach for women over 40 who are smart and successful at just about everything but love. Sandy is a TEDx speaker (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvzUMIcrBYU), and the resident dating expert here at Better After 50. Twice a week, she hosts Last First Date Radio (http://blogtalkradio.com/lastfirstdate), an exciting show about dating and relationships in midlife. After her 23-year marriage ended in divorce, Sandy set out to fully understand the keys to relationship and dating success. She received her coaching certification from the prestigious Coaches Training Institute and studied relationship and dating skills from many of the top experts. Dubbed the “man whisperer” for her ability to translate "man-speak", Sandy helps with every aspect of dating, from online dating profile makeovers to the deeper work of building your confidence and self-worth to attract and sustain a long-term healthy relationship. With her effective dating skills training, women gain the confidence to get from that sometimes awkward first date to finding love in the second half of life. Schedule your complimentary 15-minute phone consultation with Sandy (https://www.timetrade.com/book/VJDY6) and discover how dating coaching can trasform your love life. 

  18 comments for “Online Dating: How To Spot A Romance Scammer

  1. July 11, 2013 at 7:04 am

    Ah yes! They’re always widowers for some reason. I did give an email address to guy once, an address I created just for online dating. It only took one email for me to realize he was a scammer. I see them often on sites and have become good at picking up the inconsistencies. But I know of a few people who have been swept off their feet by these charmers. Great suggestions–particularly the phone number give-out.

    • Sandy Weiner
      July 11, 2013 at 8:00 am

      Thanks for your comment, Walker. It helps to know that another smart, savvy dater got pulled in by the charms of the scammer/widower. If you’re vulnerable, it can be difficult to weed out the scammer from the sincere. I’ve reported tons of these guys to the online dating sites. I, too, have become good at spotting them. Burn me once, and I’m all over it the next time. I hope more women will get wise to the ways of the scammers. It helps that they’re often bad liars :)

  2. July 11, 2013 at 8:47 am

    I was taken in once too. This guy was good, even called me and we spoke on the phone. Till he asked me for money to help him just get through a rough patch…..I felt so used. Of course, I didn’t send and blocked all means of communication but I couldn’t believe that I fell for that, I was so diligent about my online practices. Now, if I suspect anything is untoward, I do the Google Image search right away and also, I actually have them send an email to my personal email account, (just a online dating one) and I check their IP address. Most often then not, they are not where they are from…..

    • Sandy Weiner
      July 11, 2013 at 12:39 pm

      Susanne,

      Thanks for sharing your experience about an online scammer. Glad to hear you were smart enough to get out quickly. Asking for money is a big tip. You seem to be doing all the right things to filter out the scum from the good guys. Good luck to you!

      Sandy

  3. Yvonne
    July 11, 2013 at 9:31 am

    A desperate woman is a vulnerable woman…. And none of us should ever get to the desperation point. There are plenty of bullshitters and scammers out there so at first sign of “something ain’t right here” be sure to trust your gut and run. There are too many nice good men out there to waste a moment on the losers. I am actually giving on line dating a break, I don’t really think its a great way to meet good men.

    • Sandy Weiner
      July 11, 2013 at 12:48 pm

      Yvonne,

      Not all women who fall for scammers are desperate. Not by any means. Vulnerable maybe, but that’s not a bad character trait. I agree, no one should date from a desperate place. For every b.s.er and scammer, there are tons more good people dating online. The fact is, online dating works, you just have to know how to sift and sort through to find love. If you’re not dating online, you are greatly reducing the chance of meeting a quality man. I wish you luck.

      Sandy

      • August 7, 2014 at 7:46 pm

        Thank you, Sandy, for pointing out that a woman or man surely doesn’t have to be “desperate” for love to fall victim to a sweetheart scam. I’ve heard several stories where the victim wasn’t even looking for love or on a dating site. Personally, I had been on the website for travelers for some years, had no previous experience with scammers of any sort on any website, and had met my (recently deceased) husband on Match.com. So I had a favorable attitude towards on-line connections–and I was emotionally vulnerable, though there’s no way the scammer could have known that. He wooed me for many months, and I gave my heart and my monies. My story is in a book, which is online as a blog; http://www.dupedaSweetheartScam.com.

        Glad to find your great website!

        Elise (a pseudonym)

  4. Yvonne
    July 11, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    Please don’t misunderstand my message…I simply pointed out that with more than 6 red flags, and the feeling that “pickings felt slim” it made is “easy” for you to overlook the warning signs. We need to trust our intuition and not feel like just because the pickings feel slim, it’s ok to take our chances when it’s pretty clear that you are dealing with a con artist.

  5. Sandy Weiner
    July 11, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    Yvonne,

    Thanks for clarifying what you meant. I didn’t take offense. But as a dating coach, I do see people who ignore many more than 6 red flags. Pickings do often feel slim after 50, and it’s easy to look at what’s positive and ignore the negative. Important to pay close attention to all negatives from the beginning, trusting your intuition like you say, which was the intention of this article.

    Sandy

  6. Kathy
    July 11, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    I was scammed by the first guy to really show interest in me. He was a “petroleum engineer” and we had a great time chatting for a couple of weeks. But then he traveled to Africa for business, had problems getting out and seemed to think my checkbook was his ticket home. Lesson learned :( NOW, I copy a few sentences from their profile and do a google search … scammers show up quickly. And I do report the results to the website. But I never thought to do an image search … although I cannot imagine they would ever use their real photo, it could help if they chose to write an original profile.

    • Sandy Weiner
      July 12, 2013 at 2:38 pm

      Kathy,

      Sorry to hear about your scammer experience, but you taught me something new. I never thought to copy lines for the scammer’s profile and enter that into a google search. Brilliant!

      The good news is that you were a quick study. You will not be giving any more money to scammers in foreign countries.

      By the way, the fake images do show that these guys are scammers, as they did in my case.
      Very smart people get scammed every day. I once heard an NPR reporter talk about falling for a robot in Russia, posing as a woman, eventually asking for money. It wasn’t even a person on the other end. Just a cleverly programmed robot.

      Lessons learned!

      Sandy

  7. Sienna Jay Fein
    July 11, 2013 at 10:31 pm

    Your advice is so important, and so real because it comes from your own experience. It’s funny how we are SO sure this won’t happen to us because we’re savvy women….but, ya’ know…

    I have a story about the flip side – a guy who was genuine and wanted me straightaway to know so. While we were still communicating through the site he told me his real name and suggested I check him out on Google. He had published scientific papers and there was plenty of context and plenty of opportunity to call employers and colleagues (I didn’t).

    Then he suggested that I check him out on Zabasearch, which I did. Zabasearch listed a woman’s name at the same address. He had represented himself on the site as a widower, and I was able to confirm his status via her on-line death announcement. I matched his professional background with his address, and he offered to let me call him if I was nervous about giving out my phone number. By that time I felt comfortable enough to let him call me, and the phone number on my caller ID was the same as the one I had seen on both Google and Zabasearch.

    Frankly I feel creepy about checking a guy’s credentials, but in the current atmosphere, it’s worrysome not to. I think it’s reasonable to ask a guy to confirm his identity with whatever Web info is out there.

  8. Shelley
    July 12, 2013 at 11:55 am

    Thank you for the advice about Googling the image. It is reassuring to know that I have not been the only one to initially fall for a scam like this. I great reminder to all of us to be careful and smart with online relationships.

  9. Sandy Weiner
    July 12, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    Sienna,

    Wow! That is quite a thorough search of a guy with nothing to hide. Refreshing, even if a bit extreme. I usually go on my gut after a conversation or two. I try to meet the guy as quickly as possible to see what he’s like in person, because that’s one of the best tests there is. Remember the old days, when you’d meet someone at a party and begin a relationship without knowing his life story? Ah, nostalgia….

  10. Paul
    July 17, 2013 at 4:27 am

    We own a webchat site http://www.onchat.co.uk and the big problems is not romance scammers, a lot of kids acces our dating chat, and as you know the chat rooms are not a safe place for kids.

  11. July 19, 2013 at 5:52 am

    Excellent article! Always trust your gut. And if your gut is out of practice re this type of discernment then always run things by a trusted friend who can put things in perspective for you.

  12. Becca
    December 27, 2013 at 11:20 pm

    I have been divorced for eight yrs and can count the number of dates I have opted to accept on my ten fingers. Like you, I consider myself to be intelligent and not at all gullible. I recently made the decision to take a stab at online dating again (tried it once in the past), and immediately out of the gate, I was targeted by a scammer. After about three emails to an account I had set up specifically for online dating comms, I smelled a rat! A few google searches later I found others who had posted reports with the same pic etc. it was very frustrating and I reported the scam. I deleted the email account and shut down my profile on the site. I have since decided that while I may be missing out on a large pool of fish, there is still too much personal info going online placing folks at risk and it takes a lot of time to sift through the volumes of communications from interested parties. The whole experience reminded me of the countless conversations I have had with my teens about online safety. Online dating fraud is skyrocketing as are cyber crimes and identity theft. I have several friends who have successfully met a mate online. However, I have chosen to have faith that I will meet someone through my normal daily activities when God’s timing is right. If I don’t, then my personal approach will continue to be insuring that I live my life to the fullest as a happy and healthy single woman. :)

  13. Kathy
    February 11, 2014 at 8:31 am

    3 scammers in the first week of “online dating” site activity. I won’t name the site but “hatch.com” didn’t want to really help me much with the reports I gave them. I wish I had read this article before I posted my profile. While I didn’t give out too much info on the profile (I even had a wrong zip code somewhere in there by accident), I did allow the communications to go offsite way too early.

    Inconsistencies in story lines and the guy asking for money were the red flags for me. Not sounding like a typical person of my culture in their writings (word flow, language, etc) was another red flag. Guy supposedly in the military said he lost his best friend the same day he’s on a dating site? Hmmmm…

    One more thought that I should have paid attention to – meet for coffee first time, not dinner. I spent way too long with someone that I just didn’t have chemistry with, and while I survived it, I ended up with a terrible headache, and a negative attitude for the week about dating.

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