The Internet is an amazing thing. Every day there’s a new service, a new app, or a new trend that has the power to change the way we live. That’s what makes the web so revolutionary – it’s constant ability to evolve. But that ability has a negative side as well.
It seems not a day goes by that we don’t read about some form of Internet fraud. Banks, video gaming networks, and email providers, to name a few, have recently endured organized fraudulent activity. Unfortunately, online dating sites are also sometimes targeted.
Just like the Internet, fraud tactics evolve over time. There was a time when con men used cheesy photos of models from magazines. They wrote profiles that seemed absolutely perfect. It was pretty easy to see a match and identify him or her as too good to be true. However an obvious con man is out of the business very quickly, so their tactics have improved. Here is a list of some of the “new and improved” ways con men are trying to get your attention.
1. Con men look more average than ever
Con men now use very average photos in their profiles. They may steal Facebook photos or photos from the many blogs and social network pages we all have. They may even be impersonating someone of the opposite gender. It is no longer easy to tell if someone is likely a scammer based solely on their photos. While photos are important, don’t put complete stock in them.
2. Con men are more subtle than ever
Someone you’re dating is not likely to ask for your bank account number, but you may end up in a conversation where your date asks what high school you went to, or where you were born, or your first pet’s name. They aren’t going to blurt it out in an odd way. They may talk about themselves and talk about their first dog, and ask, “Did you have a pet when you were a kid?” It’s going to sound natural because, as we said, obvious con men are out of the game quickly. Of course, this kind of information is what banking sites ask when you’ve forgotten your password. And if you’ve been emailing back and forth with that person, they have all the information they need to access your accounts. Be on guard and don’t reveal too many personal details to someone you’re just getting to know.
3. Con men are no longer in a hurry
One of the hallmarks of fraud used to be the big rush. They wanted to push and push and get something from you quickly. Today’s con men take their time. They may invest in hundreds of IM’s, emails, and calls. They may see you in person many times. They know that time puts people at ease. Many victims of fraud have cited “all our time together” as the reason they were willing to hand over personal information and money. Don’t let your guard down, no matter how well you think your relationship is progressing.
4. Con men are into social media
“I Googled her and she had a LinkedIn account and a Facebook account, so I thought she was legit.” Yes, con men (and women) have learned about social media. They know that people are vetting them in the social spaces and have responded accordingly. If you find that a new romantic interest has a history on these services, it isn’t a guarantee against fraud. Watch out for the warning signs and don’t become complacent just because you found other information online.
5. Con men are excellent Phishermen
As you may know, “phishing” is the act of securing private information by appearing to be a trusted source and sending links that download personal information or install a damaging virus. A con man will send you an email with a link and write, “Watch this video. It’s the funniest thing I’ve ever seen.” One click of the link and passwords, credit card numbers and other personal data can be removed from your computer. This email can be sent on a site like Facebook, in your personal email, or within eHarmony’s internal email system. Know what you’re clicking on before you click.
6. Con men can get you to do the strangest things
It seems hard to believe, but many acts of fraud have been committed because a con man has persuaded a user to let him/her log into their account. This usually happens after the con man and his victim have been in communication for a considerable period of time, and a certain amount of trust has been established. One of the favorite tactics is to send a message saying, “I want you to see what I wrote in my profile. If you click on this link, it will take you to it, but you may have to log in first.” Sometimes, a con man will simply say, “I’ve been hurt so many times in the past. Can I log into your account and make sure that you’ve turned off your matching?” Never give your log-in credentials to anyone. If they exhibit signs of trust issues, perhaps it’s better to pursue a relationship with someone else.
These warnings can seem daunting, but we’ve found that the best way to prevent con men (and women) from succeeding is to keep our users fully informed of their tactics. For all their complex schemes con men are completely dependent upon your cooperation. At some point, you have to give them access, information, or money before they can commit their fraudulent activities.
These three rules will help protect you from most kinds of Internet fraud.
1. A person who asks for money is almost certainly a con man.
2. A person who asks for access to your online accounts is almost certainly a con man.
3. A person who asks specific personal questions about where you bank, your address, pet’s names, school names, etc. is likely a con man.
Of course, eHarmony is constantly working to prevent any of our users from being scammed. We have an entire team here dedicated to nothing but preventing the fraud that is common on the web.
But it’s a two-way street. Should you encounter any suspicious behavior from one of your matches, send an email to [email protected] so we can investigate it and take action appropriately. You may be helping not only yourself, but possibly others too.